New documentary explores the potential Mi’kmaq origins of hockey

By Danielle McCreadie

A Nova Scotia woman is making a new documentary that investigates the origins of Canada's favourite sport, and tracing it back to its potential Indigenous roots. 

Mi'kmaw political science professor Cheryl Maloney has been researching the Mi'kmaq's relationship to ice hockey since 2014, and hopes to release the findings in her film The Game of Hockey: A Mi'kmaq Story. 

She says she was turned onto the idea after one of her students wrote a paper on the history of the Mi'kmaw as the inventors of hockey sticks. 

“At the time, based on his research I thought, why aren't you just claiming the game? And his struggle was the same as everybody else: it needs to be in writing, it needs to be said by somebody and written down by an academic or a researcher, in English most often, and our written story starts where all the written research ends,” she said. 

The Mi'kmaq have been largely credited as the inventors of the hockey sticks, but Maloney wanted to go further with her research. 

She found the first written account of ice hockey being played was on the Dartmouth Lakes in 1749, with the Mi'kmaq playing “a game on ice with pucks and sticks and bone skates.” 

She says although hockey has since evolved, the first indoor NHL game, played in Montreal in 1917, shared some similarities with the Mi'kmaq game, from the numbers of players on the ice to the rules. 

“The evolution of the game can be tracked back consistently to the Mi'kmaq, and that's the common thread in all of the hockey research,” said Maloney in an interview with NEWS 95.7's Rick Howe.

“Nobody will go and say that the Mi'kmaq invented this game. We're only mentioned incidentally.” 

Maloney says the documentary is in its final stages. She hopes to do an interview with Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Chief Wilton Littlechild to give the film a greater meaning. 

“This isn't just a story about hockey, or about Nova Scotia or the Mi'kmaq, this is a story about reconciliation and reclaiming our history,” she said. 

“As Nova Scotians we should be proud because this is a real story of reconciliation with the Mi'kmaq people and how this great game came from here,” said Maloney.

“That evolution had to happen someway and it happened with us together. I think that's a big piece we need.”

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