Siksika Health Services once again hosted a pre-season opener for the Calgary Hitmen versus the Red Deer Rebels, Sept. 8 in Siksika.
The annual event aims to build on a growing partnership between the Calgary Hitmen and Siksika Health Services. This year’s game was a rematch between the two participating teams, with the Hitmen falling 5-4 in overtime.
“We were very excited to host the preseason game at the Deerfoot Sportsplex between the Calgary Hitmen and the Red Deer Rebels. In fact, it was the third preseason game we have hosted with the Hitmen,” said Tyler White, chief executive officer of Siksika Health Services. “We were super excited to work with our friends and partners, and we have had these preseason games but we have also been able to do many more things with the Calgary Hitmen and Calgary Sports Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).”
White also was excited to explain invitations had been extended to evacuees from the Northwest Territories to attend the game, who are currently taking refuge in the vicinity of Siksika Nation, as well as within the territory.
Siksika Health Services and the Calgary Hitmen also have previously partnered to host the Every Child Matters hockey game at the Saddledome in Calgary.
“We created the jerseys that you see that the Calgary Hitmen proudly wear and they are also one of the top sellers within CSEC. I am just so proud of what the team has created and the design of those jerseys,” said White. “Collaboration with CSEC, it has been a real great example of partnership, teamwork, and I think when our youth see this, it is very inspirational – I think it is an empowerment for our youth, and for our community. It gives everyone hope.”
White explained Siksika Nation is aiming to use hockey as a platform for discussion regarding racism, discrimination, public health issues and education with the Hitmen, and to create meaningful opportunities to move forward in a positive way.
Prior to the start of the game on Sept. 8, a tailgate party was hosted at the Deerfoot Sportsplex for the community to enjoy. Post-game, both teams were sat down for a traditional meal for the players.
“What we are doing really transcends hockey. We were able to, last year, have the first ever Every Child Matters pow wow at the Saddledome and we did not know what to expect, but we were confident in putting on an amazing show and showcasing the beauty of our culture,” said White.
Attendance for the preseason game was free for those wanting to come out and enjoy watching the match between the Hitmen and the Rebels. Siksika Health Services aims to continue the annual event with the Hitmen moving forward and to get more teams from the league involved in the movement.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times