From the ice to the scout’s room, Canadian hockey player Brigette Lacquette continues to blaze a trail for women in hockey.
When did your passion for hockey begin?
My passion for hockey began at a young age. I grew up with eczema and spent a lot of time alone because I was being bullied and teased about my skin. My family always tried to make me feel better but there were multiple times I wanted to give up and not go back to school. My grandpa encouraged me not to give up and that’s when I started to turn to sports. I was on my dad’s tail following him to sports tournaments, watching him play, and trying to shoot the puck around when I was five years old. From that point on, I found that I could spend hours by myself on the outdoor rink my dad built outside our house just skating and shooting in my own little world. Skating on that small sheet of ice — that’s where I fell in love with the game.
Hockey gave me the confidence that I didn’t know I had. Growing up, I lacked self-confidence when speaking to other kids or even to my own team, but I’d go on the ice, play hockey, and instantly feel confident. I felt like a different person, more outgoing and comfortable — that’s what hockey gave me.
What have been some of the most meaningful highlights from your hockey career?
What I remember and value most is achieving the goals I set when I was in the 8th grade. My family is big into goal setting and my parents sat me down and asked me what I wanted to achieve in life. I had written down that I wanted to make team Manitoba next year, graduate high school, get a scholarship, finish college, make team Canada, and maybe one day make it to the Olympics.
Growing up in a small and isolated Métis community about 4 hours north of Winnipeg, some of these goals seemed a bit farfetched but I knew I wanted to achieve them. I started working toward those long-term goals and figuring out what I needed to do today to achieve them in the future. Slowly checking off the list of the goals I had set for myself in grade 8, plus everything else I added since, has meant the most to me throughout my career.
What challenges did you face as an Indigenous woman in hockey and how did you overcome them?
Racism was one of them. The very first time I faced racism was at a tournament in Winnipeg. I got into a shoving match on the ice and the person used a racial slur. At that point, I didn’t know what to say or how to react. I was stunned, upset, and cried. My dad told me to beat them on the ice. That advice is so simple, but it went a long way with me and that’s exactly what I did. I turned the negative into a positive and used it as fuel to be the best hockey player and beat them on the scoreboard rather than paying attention to their taunts.
Situations like that happen way too often. Even now that I work with the Chicago Blackhawks as a scout, when I walk into the room, I’m the only woman. It’s difficult because a lot of the male scouts are all buddies and much older than me so it’s definitely different. But again, I focus on what I’m there to do and do the best job I can do.
Tell us about your career transition. What has your experience as an NHL scout been like thus far?
I still play hockey alongside my job and I’m able to balance everything and make my own schedule, so it’s been working out well. The transition from the ice to up in the stands has been smooth. I feel like the way I see the game and have played it makes it easier for me to point out certain skills and determine if the player is good and what they may be lacking. Overall, I really like the job and it’s made me realize how much I enjoy watching hockey.
Do you feel diverse voices help make a positive impact in organizations such as the NHL?
Absolutely. A lot of these types of jobs and opportunities are going to start opening up for women. Being one of the first, it’s cool to be here and to have a voice and share my opinion — but there are still challenges.
As a trailblazer for Indigenous women in sport, what advice would you give to youth seeking a career in sports?
You have to love what you do. The reason I play hockey is that I am passionate about it — but it doesn’t have to be hockey. Ultimately, you have to pick what you are passionate about and love to do. Set your goals high and when you set them, do everything you can to achieve them. There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishing what you set out to do. And just have fun with it!