Sports in Brief: Indigenous celebration game, program funding, Junior A star and Odjick-themed jersey

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023 12:46pm


Image Caption

At left is a special jersey designed for the Vancouver Canucks for their First Nations Celebration game March 2, and at left, Samuel Assinewai is wowing the crowds as he toils for the Greater Sudbury Cubs.
By Sam Laskaris,

Sudbury pro basketball franchise to host Indigenous Celebration game

A northern Ontario professional basketball squad will stage its Indigenous Celebration night this weekend.

The Sudbury FIVE, members of the National Basketball League of Canada, will have its celebration night on Saturday, Feb. 25.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Titans will provide the opposition for the match, which will be staged at the Sudbury Community Arena. The opening tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The contest will feature a pre-game ceremony that will celebrate Indigenous heritage and culture.

The Sudbury franchise has also partnered with representatives of the Ontario Native Basketball Invitational (ONBI), which runs Feb. 24 to Feb. 26 in Sudbury.

This youth tournament features players ranging in age from 14 to 18.

Several participants from the tourney have been invited to compete in skills competitions, which will be held at halftime during the FIVE/Titans contest.

The Sudbury franchise has also designed T-shirts featuring an Indigenous-themed FIVE logo. The shirts will be available for purchase at the game or online at

A portion of the T-shirts proceeds will be donated back to the ONBI to support Indigenous youth in sport.

The FIVE is currently on a five-game winning streak heading into its Indigenous Celebration match.

Sun Life provides significant funding for Indigenous youth programming

Sun Life has made an almost $1 million commitment to continue provide programming that will benefit Indigenous youth.

Earlier this week it was announced the company will provide $900,000 in funding over the next three years to support the Promoting Life-skills in Aboriginal Youth (PLAY) program offered through the Right To Play partnership.

The PLAY program provides Indigenous youth with play-based programming that supports their holistic health, including their physical and mental wellbeing.

The program also strives to give Indigenous youth the opportunities to create healthy habits, maintain positive relationships and learn positive coping skills.

With Sun Life’s latest funding announcement, Right To Play representatives are expected to provide programming to about 2,000 Indigenous youth in 25 Indigenous communities each year.

“The Indigenous community continues to face enormous challenges in Canada because of inequalities in Indigenous health status, including physical, social, emotional, and mental health and wellbeing,” said Sun Life Health president Dave Jones.

“Many Indigenous children are denied access to quality education and experience significantly poorer health than non-Indigenous children. That’s why Sun Life is committed to supporting youth in Indigenous communities with access to the important health and wellness resources they need.”

Assinewai excelling with Junior A squad

The Greater Sudbury Cubs have certainly benefitted from Samuel Assinewai’s return to the Junior A ranks.

Assinewai had spent the 2021-22 campaign, as well as the start of the current season, with the Flint Firebirds, members of the Ontario Hockey League.

But after just a half-dozen appearances with the Michigan-based Firebirds this year, Assinewai, a member of Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation, returned to his home province this past October.

Since then he’s been suiting up for the Cubs, who compete in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Though he was struggling to earn playing time with the higher-calibre Firebirds, Assinewai, an 18-year-old forward, has had a major impact with the Cubs.

He’s racked up 38 points (13 goals and 25 assists) in his first 25 games with the Greater Sudbury squad. And though some of his teammates had played almost twice as many games as him, Assinewai was sixth in team scoring.

Assinewai began his junior career with the Cubs’ franchise during the 2020-21 season, when the organization was called the Rayside-Balfour Canadians. The franchise was rebranded to Greater Sudbury Cubs in September of 2021.

Assinewai appeared in just nine games with the Canadians during the NOJHL’s pandemic-shortened season.

Odjick’s cousin designs Indigenous-themed jersey for Vancouver Canucks

The National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks will be honouring their most popular Indigenous player with an Indigenous-themed jersey designed by his cousin.

The Canucks unveiled a jersey designed by Jay Odjick on Feb. 23, which partly honours his cousin Gino Odjick, a former NHLer who died on Jan. 15.

The Canucks’ players will wear the Indigenous jersey during the warmups of their First Nations Celebration game, scheduled for March 2, against the Minnesota Wild.

The Jay Odjick-designed jersey features a thunderbird on the front with a Canucks’ logo.

During the jersey unveiling on Thursday morning it was announced that “The Thunderbird is a powerful symbol to many First Nations, including the Anishinabe and Coast Salish. It represents strength, power and protection.”

The jersey also includes shoulder patches with a medicine wheel, an important symbol for many First Nations which represents health and balance in all things.

The medicine wheel patches include the number 29, the number Gino Odjick wore during his pro career.

The medicine wheel on the jersey also has eight feathers attached to it, representing the number of years Odjick played with the Canucks.