World Jr. Championships player of the game awards feature art from 4 Wabanaki artists

The four artists have worked hundreds of hours over the past month, all in an effort to showcase their art at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax and Moncton.

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Lorne Julien of the Millbrook First Nation, 61 kilometers north of Halifax, wanted to honor her family’s connection to the Mi’kmaq hockey sticks. It is believed that the McMahons made the first modern hockey sticks.

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Julien’s research shows that his grandfather, Joseph Julien, once worked as part of a masseur for Eaton to fill an order for 12,000 hockey sticks in the early 1900s.

Now, he hopes his family’s story will be fulfilled when one of his sticks is presented to the winner of the “Player of the Game”.

Lorne Julian A Mi'kmaw man in a red shirt holding two hockey sticks with his design, a swift eagle with an orange heart.
Lorne Julien is a Mi’kmaw artist from Millbrook First Nation and has designed and painted hockey stick games for world juniors. He designed a sharp eagle with an orange heart for his sticks, which also include Mi’kmaq motifs. The eagle represents love and protection and the orange heart represents residential school survivors and those who didn’t make it home. (Dan Froese Photography)

“It feels great because these woods are going to last forever,” Julian said.

Between Monday and January 5, 2023, teams from around the world will play in 31 games at the 2023 World Ice Hockey World Junior Championship. One player from each team will receive “Player of the Game” recognition and take home a prize pack – including a hand-painted stick.

Each stick depicts the shapes of the Wabanki, the eagle and each one shares a different story. Julian and three other artists from Atlantic Canada were selected to create the award.

Emma Hasenkahl Pearly is an original artist wearing a black top and brown hair.
Emma Hassencahl-Perley is a Wolastoqey artist whose hockey sticks of the game are based on archival photos of Birch Brick Art style. (Harvey Studio)

Emma Hassencahl-Perley, a textile artist from Nikotkok, Tobek First Nation 123 kilometers northwest of Fredericton, said her designs pay homage to the area’s birch bark art, something she is proud to bring to the world.

“Our art should be everywhere,” said 27-year-old Hasenkahl Perli. “It’s a reflection of who we are, it’s where we come from, it’s our visual language and it’s acceptable.”

The Wahabanki Confederacy consists of the Willastuqui, Mi’kmaq, Abinqui, Piscotomcathi, and Pennsquot.

She said in the Indigenous art world, sometimes work from Atlantic Canada is missing. But the international tournament offers the whole world an opportunity to appreciate the designs.

A purple hockey stick with an interior man playing ice hockey, with an eagle, star and snowflake image.
The Player of the Game hockey stick for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship was designed and painted by Emma Hessenkahl-Parley. Images inspired by archival Birch Birch art. (Submitted by Emma Hasenkahl-Parley)

Hasenkahl Perley said she would feel happy when one of those players received a trophy she designed.

“It’s like an honor for me at the same time that they’re getting recognition for their dedication and for achieving their goals,” Hasenkahl-Perle said.

Robyn Paul, a Mikmaw rug artist from Newfoundland lives in Wilmokutok, Oromocto First Nation, 19 kilometers southeast of Fredericton. She designed a staff with an eagle carrying the seven great teachings: Courage, Love, Wisdom, Respect, Truth, Humility and Integrity.

Robin Powell is a local artist wearing gold earrings, brown hair and an orange top
Robin Paul is the carpet artist of Calipo McMahon who designed and painted the 20-player hockey sticks for the 2023 IIHF World Juniors. (Submitted by Robin Paul.)

She said the artists took a week to paint each of the 20 woodblocks they chose and worked 10 to 15 hours a day to finish their work.

Completing them, she said, was proof of her commitment.

Paul, 40, said: “I’m very proud of how much I’ve been able to come up with my artwork, I never thought I’d be able to do anything like this.”

A painted eagle with feathers on the blade of a hockey stick containing the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers.
Robin Paul designed and painted the game’s hockey stick award from the carpet artist McMahon. (Submitted by Robin Paul)

Paul’s sons played hockey and the sport was a great way to bring her family together. To see the World Junior Hockey Championships take a moment to showcase the inner talent fills him with pride.

“Focusing on local indigenous communities is just a great honor,” said Paul.

“Not only do I paint for myself, I paint for my people, I paint for my land and water,” said Natalie Sapir. (Submitted by Natalie Sapir)

For portrait artist Nathalie Sapier from Nicotcook, painting wood was a way to honor her family who played hockey.

“I think about hockey as a community, when we get together, there’s always laughter and it’s just such a symbol,” Sapier, 40, said.

She said she was filled with joy and pride by being selected, but she is also grateful for the opportunity to bring pride to her community.

“I paint for my people, I paint for my land and water,” Sapier said.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has partnered with the Maui Art: Wahabani Artist Collective to recognize local talent.

Initially they were looking for one Mi’kmaw artist and one Walastuki artist, but the board of directors received all four applications based on the merit they saw.

Grant McDonald, head of the 2023 IIHF local event, said that including local talent and stories was part of it. Offers local bids to host the games.

He said the IIHF wanted to remind people of the McMahon’s connection to the sport.

“We want to educate and we want people to understand that this sport has some special roots in this part of the world.” McDonald said.

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