Dayliin Smallchild has played the game of hockey since he was able to take his first steps. Now the defenceman is playing in Mannheim, Germany. (Submitted by Deanna Smallchild) Hockey has been a part of Dayliin Smallchild’s life for as long as he can remember. Now he is set to become the first person from his First Nation to play professional hockey.
Smallchild, 21, is a Cree man from the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation in Saskatchewan. The defencemen has been playing the sport since he was four years old.
Now he’s in Germany for his first week playing for the Mannheim Madd Doggs. He is scheduled to be there five months.
Smallchild said he is ready to take his game to the next level.
"During my junior hockey career I didn’t really think about going overseas, until my head coach talked about going somewhere. I kind of nudged it off, now here it is," Smallchild said.
"I am nervous, but just really excited." Moving on
It was the push from Taurean White, Smallchild’s head coach on the Junior A Swan Valley Stampeders, that sparked his overseas interest. White said the team will miss Smallchild in the locker room and on the ice.
"We are just proud, proud that we have another player doing what he loves to do. We are proud we were able to push him, and just happy," White said.
Smallchild said his family is why hockey was such a huge part of his youth. He was in skates as a toddler and joined his first team as soon as he was able at the age of four. Dayliin Smallchild on his journey to Mannheim, Germany. (Submitted by Deanna Smallchild ) "When he was a little guy we started him walking around with skates in the house, there he was in his skates and with his hockey stick when he was two years old. And he has been going since then until now," said Dayliin’s mother, Deanna Smallchild.
"He has always loved the sport." Family Support
A young Dayliin Smallchild poses for a photo in his early years of hockey. (Submitted by Deanna Smallchild ) Deanna said all the travelling and the early mornings she and her husband put in supporting Dayliin have paid off.
"I was very proud when I found out that he gets this opportunity to better himself in hockey. It’s just a little tough as a mother to just let him go. I just want to support him in the decision he made to go and that’s what I am going to do," Deanna said.
Dayliin said he is proud to be the first Indigenous man from his home community to go pro in the game he loves.
"I feel like I took a right turn into the right situation. It’s an overwhelming feeling to go play pro hockey overseas. And to see how people and my community looks up to me and supporting me in my decision to go play hockey there."
Dayliin flew to Germany last week and is scheduled to be there until January. Prior to him leaving, his community held a ceremonial blanket dance for him. He was honoured with a feast, song and a Starblanket. Members of the community donated money to help with the stay in Mannhiem.
"I think hockey is a very awesome and great sport to play. I feel privileged to play it every single day of my life," he said.Penny Smoke works at CBC Saskatchewan in Regina. She is currently working with CBC Indigenous.
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