By Sam Laskaris
Squiala First Nation Chief David Jimmie is planning to open up his wallet next month so he can own a part of sports history.
Jimmie is the co-chair of the RBC Cup host committee. The British Columbia Hockey League’s Chilliwack Chiefs will be hosting the RBC Cup, the national Junior A hockey championship, next month.
As hosts, the Chiefs have an automatic entry into the five-team tournament, which begins May 12 and continues until May 20.
It has been announced that members of the Chilliwack squad will be wearing a third jersey – an Indigenous-themed one – during its final round-robin contest at the tournament.
Following that May 17 contest all of the Chiefs’ game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off to fans in attendance.
All of the proceeds from that auction will go toward an RBC Cup Legacy Fund being created in Chilliwack.
Jimmie said he will definitely be among those bidding to get a jersey.
“I definitely want one,” he said. “My plan is to walk away with one of these.”
Jimmie was not willing to disclose how much he’d be willing to pay for a jersey and could not speculate how much money the entire auction would raise.
Ideally, Jimmie is hoping to have the winning bid to obtain the jersey of Chiefs’ captain Will Calverley.
“He leads the team on and off the ice,” said Jimmie, who has served as the chief of the Squiala First Nation for eight years.
Jimmie said he was impressed with how Calverley interacted with some youngsters, including the chief’s own son, when a local minor hockey Timbits squad played during an intermission of a Chilliwack match earlier this season.
Jimmie likes the fact proceeds from the Chiefs’ jersey auction will go towards a tournament legacy fund which will end up assisting some Chilliwack families.
“We recognize hockey is not an inexpensive sport and that some families struggle (to cover expenses),” he said.
Jimmie praised Chilliwack head coach Jason Tatarnic for suggesting his squad wear a third jersey at some point during the national tournament.
“He approached me to see what I thought,” Jimmie said of Tatarnic, who is in his fourth season with the Chiefs and also serves as the club’s general manager. “I thought it was a great idea.”
Jimmie also likes the fact that his First Nation and Indigenous communities nearby are teaming up with the Chilliwack community to stage a successful RBC Cup tournament. The third jersey design is further proof of the collaborative efforts.
“It just goes to show we’re all working together,” Jimmie said.
Jason Roberts, a member of the Tzeachten First Nation, is the artist who designed the third jersey that the Chilliwack squad will wear at the nationals.
“I’ve done some smaller logos,” said the 39-year-old who lives in Chilliwack. “But nothing quite on the scale like this.”
For starters, Roberts wanted the design to feature a carved mask of a chief in the Sto:lo territory style of west coast Salish art. The Tzeachten First Nation is one of the 11 members of the Sto:lo Nation.
Roberts chose the design of a carved mask of a chief as it represents leadership and strength.
Roberts said he is hoping the Chilliwack players who don these jerseys will demonstrate these traits while competing.
Jimmie, who is also the president of the Sto:lo Nation Chiefs Council and the Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe, also provided some input into the sweater design by suggesting the word Ts’elxweyeqw (which translates into Chilliwack) be included on the front of the crest.
The Indigenous-themed third jersey further cements the fact the Chiefs’ organization is keen to have a strong relationship with various First Nations.
This past September, at Jimmie’s urging, the Chiefs’ brass decide to retire Chief Wannawin, who had been the club’s mascot for 20 years.
The mascot was a caricature of an Indigenous man, complete with a painted face, headdress and wearing a Chiefs’ jersey.
Roberts is also glad the team opted to get rid of its mascot and that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are working together to make the club succeed.
“That was the first step in getting rid of that stereotype,” he said. “I know they’re trying to smooth things over and bridge that gap.”
Besides the host Chiefs, the RBC Cup tournament this year will feature four other Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) franchises that advanced to the nationals via regional qualifying events.
The CJHL features 10 Junior A circuits across the country.
All matches at the national tourney will be staged at Chilliwack’s Prospera Centre.