Innu hockey player aspires to go pro after earning engineering degree

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023 9:09am


Image Caption

Mikisiw Awashish. Photos by Matt Garies, McGill Athletics


“More kids, not only in hockey but more kids in general, need a role model to inspire them to go higher in society, in sports or just in life in general.” — Mikisiw Awashish
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Hockey player mug shot. The player is wearing a white jersey with red trim.
Mikisiw Awashish

While Mikisiw Awashish continues to make his education plans, the 22-year-old Innu hockey player maintains his boyhood aspirations of becoming a pro player.

And, yes, he still is hoping to one day make it to the National Hockey League.

Awashish is from Mashteuiatsh, an Innu community near Chicoutimi, Que. He’s a forward with the Montreal-based McGill University Redbirds.

Though he’s in his second year with the McGill squad, Awashish is actually in his third year of the school’s civil engineering program. He was able to transfer the credits he earned during his first year of post-secondary studies at Laval University in Quebec City, where he was finishing off his junior hockey career.

“I’ve got to admit it’s hard,” Awashish said of how he is juggling playing university hockey while also being in a challenging engineering program.

“It needs a lot of discipline. The key for me is to build a weekly schedule and just to plan ahead. Obviously, that’s huge. It may sound a bit cliched but it’s the recipe for me, to have a schedule and make sure I follow it.”

During his junior career, Awashish had stints with a pair of Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchises, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

He also served as the captain of the Beauce-Appalaches Condors in the Quebec Junior Hockey League, a Junior A circuit, during his final season of junior eligibility.

Awashish’s original plan coming out of junior was to go play pro hockey in France. He is still interested in doing that but after he earns his undergraduate degree from McGill.

He is now keen to eventually play in France while pursuing a Master’s degree from a European university.

“That would be my plan for now,” he said. “I had contacts with them before coming here (to McGill). I was possibly going to go there right away. Then I got the offer from McGill and put it on pause.”

Awashish said he might have to reconsider that plan, however, should he receive a decent offer to play for a minor pro franchise in North America.

Should such a deal materialize, it would give him a better opportunity to reach the NHL.

“I would be honoured and try my best to make it to the big league for sure,” he said. “That’s still a goal for me. That’s still a dream for me, deep inside of me.”

Awashish said, however, he would not leave McGill before he graduates.

“I’ve always been big on school,” he said. “So, I want to finish my degree first.”

Awashish, a centre, earned 10 points (four goals and six assists) during his rookie season at McGill.

As for this year, the start of his 2023-24 regular season was delayed. That’s because he was assessed a three-game suspension for a checking-from-behind penalty in the Redbirds’ final pre-season match.

Awashish did play his first game this season for the Redbirds’ in McGill’s 5-1 loss against the host UQTR Patriotes on Oct. 18.

But he was then a healthy scratch in McGill’s 4-1 victory against the visiting Patriotes on Oct. 20.

Awashish is hoping to return to the Redbirds’ lineup for their next outing Oct. 27 against Ontario’s Brock Badgers.

“We have a pretty good team,” Awashish said while watching last Friday’s game. “The internal competition is pretty strong. I need to make my way back to the top of the lineup.”

Awashish has also made an impact off the ice since coming to McGill. Last year he was presented with an Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Award.

His efforts included serving as a mentor coach for the Mashteuiatsh Hockey Academy. He also spoke as a mentor to the Cree Bears hockey club from Mistissini Cree Nation. That squad came to Montreal and attended a McGill contest.

“More kids, not only in hockey but more kids in general, need a role model to inspire them to go higher in society, in sports or just in life in general,” he said. “I think it’s important for them to have role models just to show them that even though you’re Indigenous it doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

“It is more difficult in a sense but it is not impossible. I think it’s important for them to know that and to have something to dream about as well. That’s why I want to do it. It was kind of lacking for me in my life.”

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