Each year the MASRC honours athletes, coaches, and volunteers who demonstrate great determination, leadership, and giving back to their community. This year their annual awards celebrated a decade of achievement and the award recipients were chosen by following a set of guidelines and were selected through the Award/Scholarship Selection Committee.
Manitoba Indigenous Male Athlete of the Decade – Zach Whitecloud (First Nations – Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, MB)
In 2013, an article stated that regardless of your birth year, you’re basically looking at 1-in-2,500 chance of playing one game in the National Hockey League (NHL) when it comes to the general public. Those chances are much lower when we are talking about Indigenous athletes. There have been less than 100 NHL players ever, who had Indigenous ancestry. Zach Whitecloud is one of them and he has now played 40 games and counting with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Zach’s career over the last decade demonstrates how persistence and taking advantage of opportunities can lead you to great things. In 2014, Zach competed with Team Manitoba in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships along with teammate Brady Keeper, who was drafted into the NHL and also played a couple games with the Florida Panthers.
In the past decade, Zach has played for seven different teams from the Manitoba Midget ‘AAA’ Hockey League (MMHL), Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), to finally being signed by the Golden Knights to a three year entry-level contract. His first career NHL game was on April 5, 2018 against the Edmonton Oilers.
Other notable highlights from the past ten years:
- 2016-2017 – WCHA All-Rookie Team
- 2016-2017 – Rookie year at Bemidji State – Lead defenceman in scoring
- 2017 – played for Team Canada and placed fourth at the Karjala Cup in Finland. Zach was the youngest skater selected to play for Team Canada.
- He was later named to Team Canada’s pre-Olympic roster before the 2018 Winter Olympics but did not make the final roster.
- During the 2018 offseason, Whitecloud volunteered as a guest instructor at Micheal Ferland’s Hockey School in Brandon, Manitoba, alongside other NAHC stars including Brigette Lacquette, Harley Garrioch, and Shaq Merasty.
(MasrcManitoba Media Release)