Washiiyeh Jeannotte spends a lot of time on the ice and is hoping to inspire other Indigenous youth by providing a glimpse into his backyard rink practices via TikTok.
“I’ve been playing hockey since I was four years old and I love taking slap shots,” said the nine-year-old hockey player and member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, about 300 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
Washiiyeh is also a big fan of “the Michigan goal,” the lacrosse-style move made by Canadian hockey player Mike Legg while playing for the University of Michigan in a 1996 NCAA tournament.
“It’s been improved since then. A lot of NHLers have done it now; a lot of these guys had little kids want to try it, and I think this little guy has perfected it,” said Washiiyeh’s father, Andrew Jeannotte, who put together the slick-looking vid.
A video of the young hockey player practising the move on TikTok had garnered over 22,000 views as of Monday morning.
Washiiyeh couldn’t practise or play with his AA atom team as a result of the pandemic, so the family made a backyard rink.
Washiiyeh and his brother spend their mornings on the ice before school and then again after school. It’s set up with outdoor lights so that afternoon practices can extend well into the night.
“Every day after school, they’ve been doing videos and practising hockey, since they had no access to the arenas for the local rinks,” said his mother, Nicole Ratt.
“To be able for him to go outside and practise the sport he loves, it’s been great.”
Hockey plays a big role in the family.
“It’s important for a lot of reasons. It keeps us busy, keeps us motivated,” said Andrew Jeannotte.
“I believe for a lot of First Nations kids, they know the link between hockey and the tradition. The first people to make hockey sticks were Mi’kmaw people. There’s a huge link between the sport and the rich history of the Indigenous people in Canada.”
Washiiyeh’s name means “loudest thunder” in Algonquin, inspired by retired Inuk NHL player Jordin Tootoo’s Inuktitut name. The two got to meet when Barriere Lake invited Tootoo to speak at a youth gathering in 2019. Andrew said Washiiyeh has been on a tear ever since.
“When you look at Barriere Lake and where we live, it is extremely isolated. So with hockey, most of the kids have not been able to play whatsoever,” said Andrew.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to get [the rink] going and make sure that they’re skating all the time to keep them busy and keep them motivated.”