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Wilton Littlechild, organizer and promoter of Indigenous sports, is pictured after being inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s ‘Class of 2018’ during a news conference in Toronto, on Thursday April 26, 2018. When Willie Littlechild gets off the plane from Toronto he plans to go directly to see Clare Drake.

“I want to go visit him and thank him again for his influence on my life,” said the man named Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty Six Nations in 2016, who was introduced as a member of the Class of 2018 into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame Thursday.

“It starts out in residential school and here it’s ended up in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame,” said the emotional Littlechild of surviving the national disgrace that inflicted so much suffering on the Indigenous youth.

“Hockey saved my life coming out of residential school. I was going down the wrong path in terms of alcohol and drinking. I could have ended up on skid row somewhere, beaten to death or drunk, but hockey was always there,” he continued in a telephone interview with your correspondent after the event.

“One time I remember I was going to quit school at the University of Alberta. I’d had it. Clare Drake phoned me. I was at home on the reservation. I said ‘I quit.’ He said ‘We have a practice at 5 p.m. and you better be on the ice.’ That was one of the biggest turns in my life. I was probably headed for places a lot of my friends and my people ended up,” he said of Drake who was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“Hockey gave me all the breaks in my life including a broken leg. And that was what got me into law school. Clare Drake is presented with a headdress by Bears alumni Dr. Wilton Littlechild as the University of Alberta Athletics department held a special ceremony to honour former Golden Bears hockey coach Clare Drake’s upcoming induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The ceremony took place before the Golden Bears game vs Lethbridge in Edmonton on Saturday Nov. 11, 2017. File / Postmedia “Coach Drake had a rule that nobody could ski. My roommate was a downhill racer. After exams one year he said ‘Come on Chief, let’s go skiing.’ I said ‘No I can’t. Coach said no skiing.’ He said ‘Come on. Exams are done. It’s spring skiing.’ So I went. Sure enough, I broke my leg really badly.

“I couldn’t skate for six years, actually. But I ended up coaching hockey and going to NHL Management School where everyone was a lawyer. So I figure ‘I have to be a lawyer to stay in hockey. So I became a lawyer.”

Littlechild is going in with a class that includes two-time Edmonton Eskimos Grey Cup champion Damon Allen, Toronto Maple Leafs great Dave Keon, Olympians Chandra Crawford, Alexendre Despatie, Sandra Kirby and Jeff Adams and ‘League of Their Own’ women’s baseball star Mary Baker. And the guy I covered as a Golden Bear is going in the door marked ‘Push’ not the one labeled ‘pull’.

One of the things that tickled me about this is that Littlechild showed up for the event wearing his tribal headdress. A picture of him wearing it that will accompany the text on his plaque in the Hall of Fame now located at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

Thousand of school kids tour through there every year and long after Littlechild has passed, there will be a young native kid who will notice that there’s a guy pictured in a headdress and read […]

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