Fred Sasakamoose, one of the first Indigenous-born hockey players to play in the NHL, fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday.
Sasakamoose died at age 86 in his hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada after being hospitalized last week with wheezing, chest pains and other complications related to COVID-19, The Canadian Press reported.
“Today we lost a luminary in the hockey world,” the Blackhawks said in a team statement. “Fred inspired many across the sport and throughout North America.”
Sasakamoose made history during the 1953-54 season when he appeared in 11 games for the Blackhawks.
He didn’t record a point in those games, but did tally six penalty minutes and took shifts against legendary players such as Gordie Howe and Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
He was also a highly accomplished forward in the Canadian junior leagues and minor leagues throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Sasakamoose has long been regarded as a pioneer and role model for young hockey players in Indigenous and Native American communities.
“Fred’s family spoke of his love for his culture, his people and his language,” the Blackhawks said. “That lasting impact of his legacy will forever be celebrated and continue to bring people together for generations to come.”
One of 11 children, Sasakamoose is survived by his wife, four children and more than 100 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Neil Sasakamoose, one of his sons, first announced his death in a Facebook video Tuesday.
Sasakamoose wrote an autobiography before his death — titled “Call Me Indian” — which is set to be published in April 2021.