Since her Olympic debut at PyeongChang 2018 last February, Brigette Lacquette has earned her spot amongst some of the greats in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and has become a well known name in the world of hockey and amongst the Indigenous community.
A defenceman for Team Canada, Lacquette and fellow Indigenous athlete Jocelyne Larocque (of Métis heritage) helped Team Canada to a silver medal in Women’s Hockey in a difficult 3-2 shootout loss to the United States at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
When asked what it was like to play in the Olympic finals, Lacquette noted that although it was a difficult loss, it was an experience of a lifetime. “It was a dream come true to represent Canada at the Olympics. I was on a great team with great people and talented players–I couldn’t have asked for a better team to be a part of,” said Lacquette. “Not winning gold was disappointing but looking at the bigger picture, getting there and going through that with all the girls was a great experience overall. That loss will drive us to work harder.”
Having been recently named the 2019 CWHL All-Star Captain, Lacquette is showing no signs of slowing down, and SAY was honoured to have the opportunity to interview her to find out more about the long road to the Olympic Games, what life has been like since and what it means to be a leader and role model.
SAY Magazine: We read that you started skating at age 4 and playing hockey at age 5. How did you get involved in hockey?
Lacquette: Growing up I was a bit of a tomboy. I played every sport possible, but there was just something about hockey that I loved. At at a young age I realized that I could spend hours on the outdoor rink skating, shooting and stickhandling. I had older cousins who played hockey, and I had to beg my dad to put me in hockey. My parents were hesitant because it is a largely male-dominated sport and it’s so rough. I begged and begged, and they finally signed me up.
One of the other reasons I started playing hockey was because it was an outlet for me. I was bullied a lot when I was younger and didn’t have many friends–hockey helped me escape from all of it. I would spend countless hours outside skating, and I would imagine playing in a big game. Being active helped me get through difficult times.
SAY Magazine: What are some of the challenges you have faced in your hockey career?
Lacquette: Throughout my career I’ve faced racism and had to find ways to overcome it and redirect my anger–being active was like therapy for me. I have also been cut from a lot of teams over the years and had to learn to bounce back from those experiences.
One of the first times I tried out for Team Manitoba I got cut, and in 2013 I was invited to try out for the 2014 Canadian Olympic Hockey Team and got cut from that. That was a tough one to come back from–it was one of my biggest challenges. It took some time to find my love for the game again.
SAY Magazine: What was it like to represent Canada, and more specifically First Nations people, at the Olympic Games? What did that mean to you?
Lacquette: The experience as a whole was amazing and something I’ve always dreamt of doing–making that Olympic team and cracking that roster. I was incredibly honoured to be able to represent not only my country and my family, but Indigenous people across Canada. I didn’t realize how big of an impact I had until I got back from the Olympics. I was extremely humbled to be there, and I was proud of who I was and where I came from.
SAY Magazine: What was one of your most memorable experiences from the Games?
Lacquette: I had a moment at the beginning of the Games. I couldn’t believe I was there. During the opening ceremonies while walking in with the rest of the athletes from Canada was when it set in. I thought, “I’m actually here” and “I made it”. I realized in that moment that everything I went through was definitely worth it.
SAY Magazine: What have you been doing since the Olympics?
Lacquette: Soon after the Olympics, I went back to the reserve and made a surprise visit to the school and band office, and went to visit some of the surrounding reserves. I’ve also been touring communities all over Canada sharing my story with youth through community visits and with others through public speaking opportunities at conferences.
I’ve been having a lot of fun touring different places and meeting great people. Having an Olympic silver medal is nice to have, but it’s nice to be able to share it with others too. It’s amazing to share it with the young people from the Indigenous communities I visit where they can touch and hold an Olympic medal. And at least once a year I go back to my First Nations and speak at the local hockey wind-ups, which I’ve done for the last 4 years.
SAY Magazine: Who are your role models?
Lacquette: My parents. They taught me everything I know, and everything I am today is because of them. They’ve always been my role models. Growing up in the sport, there wasn’t really anyone I could relate to. I’ve always admired the ladies on the National Women’s team, like Hayley Wickenheiser and Caroline Ouellette, but no one shared a similar background or experienced the same challenges I did. When Jordin Tootoo made the World Junior Team that was a huge inspiration. He was from a small community up north and made it all the way to a world stage. I thought that was pretty amazing.
SAY Magazine: How do you feel about being a sport leader and role model for youth, especially for Indigenous athletes?
Lacquette: I’m extremely proud to be in this position and the Olympics definitely gave me the platform to be able to share my story. Going to all these communities has been a positive in my life and hopefully a positive for those I’ve met along the way. I always tell the young people I meet that you can achieve anything that you set your mind to, and it doesn’t matter where you come from. I always tell them it’s going to be hard and it’s going to take a lot of hard work and determination but in the end it’s worth it.
SAY Magazine: What advice do you have for young female Indigenous athletes looking to excel in hockey or in any sport?
Lacquette: Be as athletic as possible. For me, growing up playing every sport possible helped me in hockey in every way. Don’t just focus on one thing. Try as many things as you can. Be a multi-sport athlete and work hard.
SAY Magazine: What advice would you give to someone who may be experiencing some of the same challenges you have faced?
Lacquette: Be focused on yourself. I was lucky because my dad was always there on the bench as an assistant coach, and when I was faced with racial taunts on the ice my dad would tell me to “beat them on the ice”. That was my motivation to persevere. I am, and always have been, a very competitive person, and for me that was my way of winning. Be so focused on your own success that it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you, because you’ll be winning in the long run.
SAY Magazine: What are your future goals, with hockey and/or otherwise?
Lacquette: After hockey, I want to get into coaching and possibly pursue a career in speech pathology, which is something I’ve always been interested in.