First Nations hockey player provides inspiration to her university teammates

Tuesday, November 7th, 2023 10:08am


Image Caption

Kennesha Miswaggon, who plays for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds women’s hockey team.


“She’s driven and she’s got a goal. She’s going to graduate here. I get emotional thinking about it. She’s quite the inspiration for all of us.” — UBC Thunderbirds head coach Graham Thomas
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Points are hard to come by for Kennesha Miswaggon.

But the 22-year-old member of Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Man. is again a big reason why the University of British Columbia (UBC) women’s hockey team is enjoying so much success this season.

This marks the second year Miswaggon has been playing with Thunderbirds’ captain Rylind MacKinnon, forming the team’s top defensive pairing.

The UBC squad captured the bronze medal at the 2023 national women’s university championships earlier this year and Miswaggon and her teammates, who are sporting a 12-2 record this season, are hoping to also qualify and win the 2024 Canadian tournament.

“I feel like every year we’ve just been getting better and better,” Miswaggon said on Nov. 3, after the Thunderbirds had blanked the visiting Mount Royal Cougars from Calgary, the defending national champs, 3-0.

“And the girls are really close and have a great bond. So, that really helps on the ice and with our communication. I feel everyone is just a hard worker and is really hungry to win,” Miswaggon said.
She’s a fourth-year kinesiology student and is expected to return for her fifth and final year of eligibility with the Thunderbirds during the 2024-25 season.

UBC head coach Graham Thomas has plenty of praise for Miswaggon.

“She brings so much, so much character,” Thomas said of what Miswaggon provides to the squad.

“She’s a player. A beautiful two-way skater that has a great shot and she can shut down. She’s typically played on our top penalty killing unit and our top shutdown unit.”

Though not one of the more vocal players on the Thunderbirds’ roster, Thomas said having Miswaggon in the dressing room is a huge asset.

“She’s great,” he said. “She’s quiet but she cares a lot about her teammates and is kind of willing to do whatever for her teammates. She also has a good sense of humour so she’s fun in the room. And she’s got a great laugh and a big smile and I think she enjoys being around the girls and playing hockey. She loves the game.”

Thomas said Miswaggon is a player her teammates look up to.

“She’s an inspiration coming from Cross Lake,” he said. That’s the main community of Picimikamak Cree Nation. “She’s incredibly tough. She’s an inspiration to her community and us here, being able to go to this school and be one of the first or first in her family to be at a top university in the world and living her dream and working hard.

“She’s driven and she’s got a goal. She’s going to graduate here. I get emotional thinking about it. She’s quite the inspiration for all of us.”

Miswaggon understands the role she has with the Thunderbirds.

“I’m a lot older than some of the girls, so I try to lead by example, on and off the ice,” she said.

Miswaggon has earned just one assist in her first 10 matches with the club this season.

“I work hard and, obviously, I want to get points,” she said. “I try not to let that get into my head and just play hard. I’m needed in other places like PK so I just think about defence first.”

Last year she had 10 points, including three goals, in 33 regular season and playoff games.

Thomas believes Miswaggon is capable of collecting several more points as this season moves along.

“I can see her working on the powerplay more and being able to use her offensive talents more as she grows,” he said.

Miswaggon is willing to contribute wherever asked. And she’s thrilled that she, for the most part, gets to line up on the team’s blueline with MacKinnon.

“She’s an amazing player. She’s one of the top D in Canada,” Miswaggon said of the defenceman. “I learn a lot from her every day, in practice and from games. She’s just amazing to play with.”

Miswaggon was also pleased the Thunderbirds were able to down Mount Royal in their Nov. 3 match.

“It was nice to get that W over them,” she said.

Mount Royal, however, edged UBC the following afternoon, 4-3, in a contest decided in a shootout.

Miswaggon isn’t surprised to see the Thunderbirds off to an impressive start during the 2023-24 campaign.

“I feel that last year we had such a good ending,” she said. “It wasn’t the outcome that we wanted but I feel we fought hard throughout last season and we finished strong. We were really pumped to come into this season and get it going again.”

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