Blackhawks’ Lacquette becomes NHL’s 1st First Nations scout

Blackhawks’ Lacquette becomes NHL’s 1st First Nations scout
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EDMONTON, Alberta — When Brigette Lacquette first heard from the Chicago Blackhawks, she didn’t think the message was real.

It was, and it arrived at a perfect time.

Lacquette became the first Indigenous woman to scout for an NHL team when she was hired by the Blackhawks this year.

Making history is familiar for Lacquette, who became the first First Nations woman to play hockey for Canada in a Winter Olympics in 2018. The defender earned a silver medal, but was left off Canada’s Olympic roster for 2022.

“I had to go through some things mentally and emotionally throughout the summer just with everything in life,” Lacquette told The Canadian Press.

“This job has kept me busy and I have something to look forward to and something I want to excel at, get better at every single day and give it my all. It turns out, I really love this job.”

The 29-year-old Ojibwa from Mallard, Manitoba, also played in three world championships over six years on the national women’s team, winning two silver medals and a bronze.

Lacquette saw a seemingly random message on her Facebook page in May from Blackhawks assistant general manager Ryan Stewart, who oversees pro evaluation.

“I had to Google him because, to be honest, I didn’t think it was real,” Lacquette said.

The Blackhawks were looking to replenish their scouting staff after a COVID-19 contraction, Stewart said.

“We were looking for more diverse … just more opinions, more different people to bring into the fold here,” he said. “So doing a lot of research and doing different things, her name just popped up and I kind of dove deeper into it.

“Everybody I reached out to — from former coaches at college to teammates — raved about her hockey sense and her integrity as a person. To me, if you’ve got hockey sense as a player it translates very well to scouting.”

Lacquette was still awaiting word at that time on whether she would be invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic team.

“I told him I’d let him know next week. I thought ‘That’s actually super cool, like that’s crazy,’ but my mind was focused on playing hockey,” she said.

“I didn’t get centralized, and then I inquired more about the job. Talked to higher-ups and they offered me a job as a pro scout. They told me my job was basically watching all the kids that are drafted in the NHL that play in the Western Hockey League.”

Lacquette’s territory recently expanded from the three prairie provinces into British Columbia.

“October was definitely a struggle. I didn’t really know what to expect,” Lacquette said. “I was excited to drive down to Lethbridge and watch a hockey game, but then I was like ‘What am I looking for?’

“I’ve been playing hockey my entire life, so then watching the game and breaking down aspects of it and the players’ skills and rating them, and writing reports on them, the more I get to watch them, the more I notice that they are improving or not improving.”

Said Stewart: “I’ve been amazed at her reports and she knows the detail that helps translate a player to a pro level and then obviously bigger than that to the NHL level. She’s grasped that kind of range real quickly here.”

Knowing the tension over sports teams and Indigenous logos and names, Lacquette said she did her homework on Chicago’s logo and Black Hawk, a Thunder Clan leader who resisted the takeover of lands belonging to his people.

“They’re honoring Black Hawk who is the logo,” Lacquette said. “They do a lot of land acknowledgment stuff and good work with the First Nations communities. They have some stuff on their website they share if people don’t understand.”

Lacquette consulted with her mother Anita of the Cote First Nation in Saskatchewan and father Terance of O-Chi-Chak-Ko-Sipi First Nation in Manitoba about taking the job.

“My dad was excited. He said ‘This job is something a lot of people work their whole lives for and don’t get,’” Lacquette said. “With regards to the logo, they do understand. I did explain it to them.

“I do see both sides of it. There’s obviously a lot of people that don’t support it. There was this one girl who made a really big deal about me accepting a job, and saying she doesn’t support me.

Lacquette was the best qualified person for the job, Stewart said.

“She has an excellent hockey mind, period,” he said. “There’s a long line of people lining up to be scouts, but we hand-pick and we’re very selective as to who could be a scout for us.”

Lacquette joins a small group of female NHL scouts alongside Cammi Granato (Seattle Kraken), Blake Bolden (Los Angeles Kings) and Meghan Hunter (Blackhawks).

Lacquette compared job notes via direct messages with Bolden, who became the first Black female NHL scout in 2020. Lacquette broke that barrier for Indigenous women.

“It’s cool I get to be the first, but I feel like a lot of these kind of jobs and opportunities are going to be opening up a lot for a lot of the other teams in the NHL,” Lacquette said. “I mean, the time is now.”

Lacquette still plays for the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA).

She scouted the Canadian junior men’s selection camp and played for the PWHPA against the Canadian women at the same arena one December weekend in Calgary.

She’s unsure what her future playing career will be.

“I’m just taking it day by day. I’m not thinking too far ahead,” Lacquette said. “It still feels good to train and skate with the PWHPA.

“I’m not really sure where I’m going to go from here. Right now, I’m focused on my job. It gives me a new goal.”

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    Mitch Marner extends Maple Leafs-record points streak to 21 games

    Mitch Marner
    USA Today
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    TORONTO — Mitch Marner extended his franchise-record points streak to 21 games with a second-period goal and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-0 on Thursday night.

    Marner gave Toronto a 4-0 lead with his 11th goal of the season, scoring on a slap shot after a Los Angeles turnover inside its blue line.

    Marner became the 10th player in the past 35 years to string together a streak of 21 or more games. He has 10 goals and 16 assists during the run.

    Auston Matthews, Pierre Engvall, David Kampf and William Nylander also scored for Toronto. Ilya Samsonov made 29 saves for his first shutout with the Maple Leafs and the seventh of his career.

    Toronto has won seven of eight to improve to 17-5-6.

    Los Angeles dropped to 14-11-4 with its seventh loss in 10 games. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick made 36 saves.

    Penguins’ Kris Letang returns to practice 10 days after stroke

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    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang returned to practice with his teammates just 10 days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

    The 35-year-old Letang remains out indefinitely, with the club describing him as “day to day.”

    Letang said he felt “pretty good” after being greeted by stick taps from his teammates when he skated onto the ice at the team’s practice facility. Still, the married father of two called the experience “scary,” particularly for his family.

    “My kids, they don’t care if I’m a hockey player or not,” he said. “They care about having a dad. Same with my wife. She could care less about hockey. She knows there’s so much more. After hockey, there’s a long time and you want to be able to enjoy those moments with your family, with your kids.”

    Letang missed more than two months in 2014 after his first stroke, which was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. The condition also led to the second stroke, which Letang suffered on Nov. 28 after dealing with a series of debilitating headaches.

    This time, the symptoms have resolved themselves much more quickly, according to team physician Dr. Dharmesh Vyas, who described this stroke as “smaller” than the one Letang endured in 2014.

    Letang began skating on his own just two days after the diagnosis and was cleared to return to practice on Thursday though both Letang and Vyas stressed they are in no rush for him to play in games.

    “We don’t think this is accelerated in any way,” Vyas said. “We are taking all the right precautions to make sure that it is safe to go out and play and when that time comes we’ll let him go back to playing his sport.”

    Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said it was a “relief” to see Letang back at work.

    “It’s a great visual that he’s making progress,” Sullivan said. “Our medical team that has monitored him extremely closely feels comfortable with some of the progress that he’s making and the steps he’s taken. Everyone was excited for him to join the group.”

    Letang signed a six-year contract extension over the summer that will carry him into his 40s if he decides to play that long. Vyas said the data around strokes is “evolving” though it is unclear if Letang is now more susceptible to having additional strokes now that he’s had a second one.

    The six-time All-Star is cautious but optimistic.

    “We’ve been through this,” Letang said. “Me and Dharmesh have a clear understanding that we’re going to take all the time we need and make sure the research is possible and it’s no danger for me to keep going.”

    The Penguins are 8-1-1 over their last 10 games and have won three straight heading into a home-and-home series with the Sabres. They’re also eager to have Letang’s familiar No. 58 back in the lineup, but only when he’s ready.

    “He’s been here for a long time and his experience and everything that he brings on and off the ice, the way he competes (is important),” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “But I think in the (locker) room, (he has) poise and (he’s) somebody who’s been around a long time and whose experience you feel when he’s around.”

    Thompson nets 4 in 1st, 5 overall, as Buffalo tops Columbus

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tage Thompson matched an NHL record by scoring four times in the first period and finished with five goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their third straight road game, 9-4 over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.

    Thompson is the second U.S.-born player to score five goals in a game. He is the fourth player in NHL history to record four goals in the first period of a regular-season game, joining Peter Bondra (1994), Grant Mulvey (1982) and Joe Malone (1921). He is also the fourth active player to score five goals in a game, joining Timo Meier (Jan. 17, 2022), Mika Zibanejad (March 5, 2020) and Patrik Laine (Nov. 24, 2018).

    “It’s definitely a rewarding feeling,” Thompson said. “You’ve spent a lot of years working to get to this point and to be rewarded for it is a pretty good feeling and it just leaves you hungrier.”

    Thompson’s outburst helped Buffalo score six times in the first 16:40.

    “That was an amazing performance by Tage, and really, the whole group set the table,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “I thought the energy, the collective effort, the focus to start was really good and enabled that to happen.”

    Alex Tuch had a goal and three assists, Dylan Cozens added a power-play goal and two assists and Rasmus Dahlin finished with a goal and two assists. Peyton Krebs also scored. Jeff Skinner picked up four assists and Jacob Bryson had two. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 20 shots.

    Patrik Laine and Gustav Nyquist each scored twice for Columbus.

    Joonas Korpisalo stopped two shots before being pulled in the first in favor of Elvis Merzlikins, who stopped 15 shots through the second period. Korpisalo returned in the third and finished with six saves.

    Columbus has lost six straight home games and five of its last six overall.

    “We didn’t have an answer for that one line,” Blue Jackets coach Brad Larsen said. “Tage Thompson just tore us up tonight.”

    Buffalo dominated from the puck drop, scoring four goals on its first six shots.

    Cozens put the Sabres on the board at 3:21 of the first, 53 seconds into a Blue Jackets penalty, and Thompson made it 2-0 just 2:09 later. Dahlin scored Buffalo’s third goal at 7:28 of the first, driving Korpisalo from the net in favor of Merzlikins, who gave up Buffalo goal No. 4 to Thompson 32 seconds later.

    Thompson’s third career hat trick and second of the season came on a power-play goal at 12:22 of the first. He followed with his fourth goal, also on the power play, at 16:40.

    Columbus scored two goals in just over a minute, with Laine at 10:49 and Nyquist at 12:04, before Buffalo reeled off three straight in just over three minutes to end the period, including Thompson’s fifth, and goals by Krebs and Tuch.

    Laine and Nyquist scored in the third period for Columbus.

    STREAKING

    Cozens has 12 points in his last five games and is riding a career-best, five-game point streak. Thompson has eight goals and five assists in his last five games and 10 multi-point games. Dahlin has a five-game point and assist streak, and Gaudreau stretched his points streak to six games.

    NOTES: The Sabres joined the Kraken as the second team this season to score nine goals in a game. … Thompson is the second player in Buffalo history to have five goals in a game, joining Dave Andreychuk, who had five goals and an assist on Feb. 6, 1986.

    UP NEXT

    Buffalo: Hosts Pittsburgh on Friday.

    Columbus: Hosts Calgary on Friday.

    Ovechkin, Strome lead Capitals past struggling Flyers 4-1

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    Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports
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    PHILADELPHIA — Alex Ovechkin scored two empty-net goals, Dylan Strome had a goal and an assist and the Washington Capitals defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-1 on Wednesday night.

    T.J. Oshie also scored for the Capitals, who finished 3-3 on a six-game trip. Charlie Lindgren made 29 saves.

    Kevin Hayes scored for Philadelphia, which has lost 13 of 15 games. Carter Hart made 23 stops.

    Strome broke a 1-all tie with 10:41 remaining when he deflected John Carlson‘s shot from long range past Hart.

    Hayes had a golden opportunity to tie it on a Philadelphia power play, but Lindgren made a great right pad save on a try from close range with 8:20 remaining.

    Ovechkin iced it, scoring into an empty net with 1:35 left and adding another empty-netter with 8.2 seconds left for his 15th of the season. Ovechkin has 795 career goals, good for third all-time. He is six goals away from tying Gordie Howe for second place. Wayne Gretzky, with 894 goals, tops the list.

    Hayes scored his ninth goal of the season for his team-leading 28th point with 4:14 left in the first period to give the Flyers a 1-0 lead. Hayes rushed to the bench after breaking his stick on a slap shot attempt, and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot with his new stick.

    The Flyers had a power-play goal for the third straight game and have four overall in that stretch. Philadelphia, which began play ranked 30th in the NHL in scoring on the man advantage, now has converted 16.7% (14 of 84) of its chances.

    Oshie tied it 3:51 into the second on the Capitals’ fourth power play as the Flyers continued to take sloppy penalties. This time, James van Riemsdyk committed Philadelphia’s third tripping minor of the game. Oshie made them pay with his fifth goal of the season when he finished a nifty passing sequence with Strome and Evgeny Kuznetsov with a perfectly placed one-timer over Hart’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Van Riemsdyk returned after missing the last 20 games due to a broken right index finger. . Flyers forward Tanner Laczynski was placed on injured reserve after departing midway through the third period of Monday’s 5-3 win over Colorado with what looked like an injury to his left leg. . Washington was without several injured players, including starting goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body). Kuemper was with the team, but missed his second in a row. . Carlson had two assists. . Philadelphia’s Cam Atkinson, out all season with an upper body injury, has been practicing and is close to returning.

    UP NEXT

    Capitals: Host Seattle on Friday night.

    Flyers: Open four-game trip at Vegas on Friday night.