Aside from enjoying our incredibly warm weather, I had the pleasure of attending the 34th Annual Battle of the Little Big Puck on Saturday evening where I received an extra special surprise. I missed the 2015 game as my wife and I were visiting our granddaughter in British Columbia, so I was looking forward to capturing some photos of this year’s event. Upon entering the arena I spotted a display of Fred Sasakamoose memorabilia, but did not see the former NHL player and wondered why such a display had been set up. During the opening ceremony, I learned the first treaty Indian to play in the NHL was the guest of honour at this year’s Little Big Puck.
I learned of the Saskatchewan Native after moving to this province 30 years ago and was fascinated by his story. I had read bits and pieces about the Chicago Black Hawk player decades ago, but did not know his full story. Tom Reardon – an organizer and one of the minds behind the first cowboys versus Indians hockey game – told the capacity crowd about Sasakamoose’s journey to the Chicago Blackhawks. The local cowboy was instrumental in bringing the special guest to this year’s Battle.
As a child I had heard my father talk about the first native to play in the NHL. That was back in the days when Foster Hewitt was the unmistakable voice of Hockey Night in Canada, so seeing and meeting Sasakamoose was an honour. I was surprised to find he did not look 82 years old and moved more like a man that was 10 to 20 years younger. As we chatted, he expressed delight in being at Maple Creek and attending the Battle of the Little Big Puck. I had my photo taken with the former NHL player and then he signed a couple of replica hockey cards, one for myself and one for my father.
I always enjoy rubbing shoulders with living legends and learning about their lives. In fact, I have learned that every person is filled with interesting stories and the challenge is in the accessing of that information. Not only do memories fade with time, but with the passing of each generation a great deal of information is lost, much of which has never been recorded. I have come to appreciate that more as I am a grandparent and part of a family that currently spans four generations.
I have always been impressed by the emphasis Maple Creek and area residence put on local history and its preservation. That fact that the Old Cowtown has two museums is a testament to the importance that history plays in this community.
On that note, a news story last month caught my attention regarding special books that were available for one day only at the University of Regina. The books could be checked out for only 30 minutes since they were made of flesh and blood and took the form of men and women from a wide variety of occupations and lifestyles. They were dubbed human books and any library patron who checked out such a book had a half hour in which to question, listen to and socially interact with the source – a human book. That is such a neat idea and I think it has awesome potential when it comes to acquiring information and wisdom from older generations.
I fondly recall the times we sat on the floor as children and quietly listened to stories our parents and grandparents told, especially during a card game or after supper or a couple of drinks. We didn’t need video accompaniment or suspenseful music to bring the intriguing tales to life. That was left to the storyteller and each person’s imagination. I believe First Nations called it oral history and every person and family has it’s own unique stories and verbal records of zany, dangerous and life-changing moments. Such history should be preserved for future generations, but more importantly it should be shared with family and friends and hopefully light-hearted and humourous stories will greatly outnumber any tales of tragedy or despair.
Wouldn’t it be great to pick the brain of someone for 30 minutes? Even though confidential matters could not be discussed, think of the subjects that could be broached with people such as a doctor, judge, police officer, theologian, preacher, town mayor, prison warden, psychiatrist, coroner, mortician or the first treaty Native to play in the NHL. I would definitely check out as many of those books as possible.
In Maple Creek we have the pleasure of often being able to attend verbal and video presentations on history thanks to presentations at the Oldtimers Museum and Jasper Cultural and Historical Centre. We should treasure these facilities since they archeological gems and are the envy of many small towns in Saskatchewan. In that regard, I am looking forward to hearing veteran Harry Forbes speak on Feb. 28 after the screening of the film The Liberation of Holland at the Jasper Centre at 2 p.m.
While we live in the information age, I am afraid most people do not realize the fragility of knowledge that is stored digitally. Books and the written word has survived for thousands of years, but information that is stored electronically can be lost in a second if a huge electromagnetic wave hits the earth.
As for the present, I hope we will continue to value and check out local sources of knowledge, even if they are not in book form.