SUDBURY – The Copper Cliff Reds became a de facto Wiikwemkoong midget AA hockey team this past season, having a dozen players from the territory represented on the Sudbury squad.
“There’s 13 or 14 of us on the team and 12 from Wiiky,” said team member Ian Dokum. “We all contacted each other and agreed to try out. When the team list was made, we were all there.”
This crew is no stranger to playing together. They used to be in house league together before joining the Reds, a team in the Northern Ontario Hockey Association.
When asked how their record was this season, Ian laughed.
“We weren’t so good; we’re already out in the playoffs. But we always play our heart out,” he said.
This season was far from a complete blow-out. The Reds managed to secure six wins which, although it wasn’t enough to advance, was still a respectable outcome.
Regardless of the score, one cannot knock them for any lack of dedication or effort. The team hosts two practices per week and plays in games that can take the group as far as North Bay. Each drive to Sudbury is at least two hours per direction.
“We have to leave right after school and we get home late,” said Ian. It’s a lot to balance between the pressures of being in either Grade 11 or 12 and also supporting their fellow teammates.
“We’re big people and we’re not very fast, but we play with our heart,” Ian said. “It’s that dedication we put in because of our love for hockey.”
Unfortunately, the Wiiky dream team is not long for this world. A number of players are aging out of the division and will soon be no longer eligible to participate in the team.
“We’ve already got three or four in call-ups,” Ian said, referring to the new generation that will be seeing the Copper Cliff team through.
The Reds have an interesting history. The team began nearly a century ago as the Copper Cliff Redmen and featured a logo very similar to the chief head used by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Last year, the Redmen announced they would be renaming their team to the Copper Cliff Reds to be more respectful of Indigenous people, considering they had been using a caricaturized version of an Indigenous man as a mascot alongside a name that has become a racial slur for Indigenous people.
That team has also hosted strong players who went on to have NHL careers. The most recognizable name among that list would be none other than Tim Horton, who played a single season for the junior Redmen in 1946-1947.