HI Stephane Friday

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Stephane Friday, co-founder of Hockey Indigenous, a site that highlights the achievements of Indigenous people in the sport.

Stephane Friday was scrolling through hockey websites and found a void -- and a need.

“I wondered if there would be a Native hockey page or anything like that, and I didn’t really see any,” said Friday, a 30-year-old who is Cree from Kashechewan First Nation in northeastern Ontario. “I just told myself, ‘What if I just kind of create this page and see how it goes?’”

Nearly nine years later, Hockey Indigenous has grown into a go-to site for information about Indigenous people involved in the sport from peewee to the pros.

HI and Otters

The goal of the site, co-founded by Friday and Abigal Linklater, is to highlight Indigenous people in hockey, help make the sport more welcoming and inclusive to the community, and to raise the aspirations of young Indigenous players.

“The No. 1 thing is I want our youth to be noticed," Friday said, "because a lot of our youth have the talent. With this platform, I believe and I’m confident to say, that it brings confidence to the youth, it gives them the motivation. When they see these players all over, whether it’s the NHL, whether it’s playing in Europe, whether someone’s playing down in Junior B or the ECHL, the end goal is to motivate our youth the reach the high-level leagues.

"The site tracks Indigenous current and former players, coaches and staff in the NHL, minor leagues and overseas along with men’s and women’s players in Canada and the United States. The general public has to be more aware of the talent and the kids we have playing.”

Hockey Indigenous has posted more than 200 photos submitted by proud families of players who have signed on with youth hockey, junior or college teams on Facebook, X, Instagram and other social media outlets.

It also created Indigenous Hockey Profile Cards to highlight the personal and professional accomplishments of players. More than 500 players have been promoted through the cards since 2020, Friday said.

“It’s a wonderful concept,” said Ted Nolan, who is Ojibwe, and had 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 78 games as a forward with the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins from 1981-86.

Nolan went on to coach the Buffalo Sabres (1995-97 and 2013-15) and New York Islanders (2006-08) and won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 1997.

“To let people know what’s happening in First Nations and Indigenous communities, that we’ve been playing hockey for so long, is good for hockey,” Nolan said. “For so long, it was out-of-sight, out-of-mind. The general public has to be more aware of the talent and the kids we have playing.”

HI with Reggie Leach

Hockey Indigenous’ efforts have won it recognition. The Carnegie Initiative presented Friday with its Herbert Carnegie Trailblazer Award at the organization’s annual summit in January.

The trailblazer award is presented to people “who use (hockey) as a vehicle to create positive social change, embodying the CI’s mission of ensuring that hockey is inclusive, supportive, and welcoming to all,” according to its website.

The organization and award are named in honor of Carnegie, a posthumous 2022 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in the Builder category who many believe was the best Black player never to reach the NHL.

Bryant McBride, a Carnegie Initiative co-founder and former NHL executive, said Friday was a logical choice for the award because of his “determination, his resourcefulness and leadership.”

“He’s the kind of leader who’s going to find a way to help people, that really jumped out at me,” McBride said.

Hockey Indigenous began as Aboriginal Hockey News, a Facebook page, in 2015 after Friday conducted his internet search and an found Indigenous representation lacking.

The page went through several name changes, including Indigenous Hockey News and Indigenous Hockey. Unfortunately, the page was hacked in 2020, which locked out its nearly 40,000 followers, Friday said.

Friday and Linklater, a member of Taykwa Tagamou Nation in northern Ontario, rebuilt the page, rebranded it as Hockey Indigenous and made it a nonprofit.

“We actually got our follows back in less than a year when we created the new page,” Friday said. “Now we’re up to 75,000 followers.”

That’s likely to grow as more Indigenous players climb the hockey ladder.

At least eight Indigenous skaters and goalies are ranked among the North American players eligible for the 2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Sphere in Las Vegas June 28-29. They include forward Cayden Lindstrom (Driftpile Cree Nation), Medicine Hat, Western Hockey League; goalie Chase Wutzke (Metis), Red Deer, WHL; forward Dayln Wakely (Curve Lake First Nation), North Bay, Ontario Hockey League; defenseman Corbin Vaughan and forward Jaxin Vaughan (Lower Nicola Indian Band), Regina, WHL; forward Carson Pilgrim (White Earth Nation), Warroad High, Minnesota; forward Pavel McKenzie (Cumberland House Cree Nation), Moose Jaw, WHL; and forward Sam McCue (Abenaki-Odanak First Nation), Peterborough, OHL.

“It’s growing and I’m very proud,” Friday said of the Indigenous profile in hockey. “I hope my platform kind of helps with that, but it’s more than likely that their talent is taking them to places.”