"Hockey is my passion! It's always been very important in my life." Mikisiw Awashish, 20, is not short of either passion or ambition. That's what has enabled him to achieve 2 of his dreams: play in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and begin his first year of university.
Originally from the Innu community of Mashteuiatsh, he began skating at the age of 3! Hockey also taught him perseverance.
Although he was drafted by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, it was finally with the Baie-Comeau Drakkars that the forward had his first official season, which was unfortunately truncated by the pandemic. After being cut from the Chicoutimi team during his first 2 training camps, he rolled up his sleeves and worked even harder to get a spot.
Never give up!
"You can't give up. When I got discouraged, I thought about all the young people in my community who looked up to me, and it motivated me to double down to succeed," says Awashish, whose first name means eagle and symbolizes courage among First Nations people.
The son of an Innu mother and an Atikamekw father from the community of Obedjiwan, Awashish could also count on his parents' unfailing support and continual encouragement to pursue his dreams. "They've always valued education and sports and give me a lot of pats on the back for encouragement," he says appreciatively.
He had to learn how to balance sports with school from a very young age. The student athlete also benefited from 2 Desjardins Foundation scholarships for young people who want to continue sports at a high level while pursuing a post-secondary education.
His hard work in school and his community involvement were recognized last year when he won the Prix Alec-Reid, awarded by Alliance Sport-Études in recognition of the success and engagement of student athletes. "It's a great honour to receive this award. School and hockey eat up a lot of my time, but I'd like to get even more involved in the development of minor hockey in my home community," says Awashish. He also participates in the hockey school founded by Francis Verreault-Paul, who is also from Mashteuiatsh and played in the QMJHL, too.
In the meantime, Awashish will continue to play hockey while hitting the books. He plans to keep working towards his bachelor's degree in civil engineering, which began this fall, then earn a master's, possibly in administration, before returning to his native community of Mashteuiatsh to work as an engineer and contribute to its development.
What does September 30 mean to you?
"The tragedy of residential schools, but also the death of Joyce Echaquan, break my heart. This day can lead to a healing process. And it will help bring the truth to light, recognize a hidden part of First Nations history and honour the memory of those who unfortunately experienced these tragedies."
Someone who inspires you?
"The journey of Francis Verreault-Paul, who is also from Mashteuiatsh, had a lot of influence on me. He played for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and was even team captain. He then went on to obtain a master's degree. It was very inspiring to have someone from home clear the way."
An accomplishment, something you're proud of?
"Making it to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. I worked really hard and overcame a number of failures to finally get here."