Four Indigenous artists from the Maritimes were selected to paint hockey sticks for the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships taking place in Moncton and Halifax.
For Mi’kmaw artist Lorne Julien from Millbrook First Nation, the opportunity has been a dream come true.
The call went out about a month ago for artists to make a unique design for a hockey stick that would be awarded to the MVPs from each game at the world juniors.
Julien, who was one of the chosen artists, painted 20 of the sticks in about 100 hours. They feature a design he says has deep significance to his culture.
“The eagle represents love plus it also represents protection and I also have an orange heart that’s in the centre of the bird,” he explained. “The eagle and that orange heart represent residential school survivors and the ones that didn’t make it home.”
The local event lead for the tournament, Grant MacDonald, says it was important for the organization to incorporate Indigenous customs with the origins of hockey.
“They all come from very diverse backgrounds themselves, have unique connections and stories to the game of hockey and what we want to do is honour their work and so honour the traditions of stick carvings that was done by the Mi’kmaq,” he said.
For Julien, it’s a full circle moment. He is the great-grandson of Chief Joseph Julien of Millbrook First Nation, who crafted hockey sticks in the late 1800s.
“Then they were called Micmac sticks and they referred to the Mi’kmaq as expert woodcarvers,” he said.
He grew up playing the sport, and says the opportunity to have his artwork displayed on a world stage is an honour.
“When I found out I was really pleased and just honoured and grateful,” he said.
— With a file from Rebecca Lau