Brigette Lacquette continues to blaze new trails at hockey’s highest levels, both on and off the ice. In 2018 she was the first Indigenous woman to play for the Canadian Olympic team. Now Lacquette is a scout in the National Hockey League.
Lacquette was offered the job by the Chicago Blackhawks last May when she was waiting to hear from Team Canada’s Olympic selection camp. After determining the message was indeed real, she spoke with assistant general manager Ryan Stewart, who asked if she had considered life following her playing career.
“I’m still able to play hockey and work at this job,” Lacquette told the Nation. “That’s one of the main things that attracted me to it. He was like we’re not going to get in the way of your training but we would also like to use your brain on some players. It’s kind of a win-win.”
After Lacquette wasn’t invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic team, accepting this historic opportunity was a substantial silver lining. The 29-year-old continues to play with Calgary in the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA) as she scouts young prospects in the Western Hockey League who have already been drafted into the NHL.
“My bread and butter was my vision on the ice, passing the puck, seeing lanes and just my poise,” explained Lacquette. “I feel like that has translated well into scouting. I’m seeing the kid with the puck and I see his options, then it’s easy to tell what his skill level and hockey sense is like. You can analyze their skating and things like that.”
Good positioning and anticipating the play served Lacquette well on the blueline as a defender representing Canada at three world championships and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, where she picked up a silver medal. Before recruiting her, Chicago had researched her collegiate playing career at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
“Everybody I reached out to – from former coaches at college to teammates – raved about her hockey sense and her integrity as a person,” Stewart told the CBC. “She has an excellent hockey mind, period. There’s a long line of people lining up to be scouts, but we’re very selective as to who could be a scout for us.”
Lacquette is the fourth female NHL scout to be hired during the past few years, in a domain long held exclusively by white men. Before accepting the position, she reached out to Blake Bolden, who had previously broken barriers with the Los Angeles Kings as the first Black female scout.
“I was trying to see what she thought about her job before I accepted the position,” said Lacquette. “I asked how she managed things, what she does. When I accepted, I just ran with it and now I’m learning every day. It’s a lot of fun – I feel like I’m improving every time I write a report.”
Lacquette was naturally nervous when she started in October, wondering what exactly she was looking for as she drove to a game in Lethbridge. However, she has quickly adapted the tools of the trade, including video technology that helps her keep track of 10 players at a time.
“I can go back and watch three games in an hour, focusing on just one player’s shifts,” Lacquette explained. “So if I miss anything, I can sit at my desk and watch extra videos. Right now the trade deadline is coming up and my boss is starting to contact me a lot, talking about the players I watch.”
Before the World Junior Championship in Alberta was shut down because of Omicron concerns in December, Lacquette had been scouting just hours after playing a PWHPA game. As she observes the subtle improvements of certain prospects, balancing these two sides of her life has been a smooth transition so far.
“I’ve been amazed at her reports and she knows the detail that helps translate a player to a pro level and then obviously bigger than that to the NHL level,” said Stewart. “She’s grasped that kind of range real quickly here.”
Given ongoing controversies about sports teams appropriating Indigenous names and logos, not everyone has supported Lacquette joining the Blackhawks. After Washington’s NFL team finally dropped its offensive “Redskins” moniker in 2020, Chicago announced it will keep its name but ban headdresses at games and build a wing at an Indigenous museum in Illinois.
“I respect what the Blackhawks are trying to do,” responded Lacquette. “They are making efforts to promote Indigenous ancestry through the history. I’m not trying to get roped into anything. I’m here working my dream job, a job that doesn’t come around often, especially to people like myself or my family. I’m focusing on all the positives in my life.”
Serving on NHL committees for female hockey and player inclusion, Lacquette has become accustomed to additional scrutiny. Growing up in the tiny Manitoba community of Mallard, Lacquette looked up to Jordin Tootoo, but had few female role models.
“Breaking down these doors of racism and making Team Canada were the goals I set for myself,” said Lacquette. “I didn’t realize I was the first until they said something at the Olympics. From that point on, I embraced the role of sharing my story and realized how important it’s been to show kids it’s okay to move away from your small community.”
Lacquette’s openness about her struggles with anxiety, racism and bullying have inspired youth to seek guidance about overcoming their own obstacles. When speaking at schools, she encourages kids to “work their butt off”, doing everything they can to achieve their passions.
“Yes, I played in the Olympics but I grew up just like you,” Lacquette shares. “I never had anyone telling me this is what you can achieve. Sometimes growing up in Mallard, I’d go out and shoot pucks when I was frustrated. There were so many times I wanted to quit but I pushed through it.”
by Patrick Quinn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter