Sadie Makokis was meant to be a hockey player. The fifth of eight children, she comes from a family of hockey players.
For the 18-year-old, the 2022-23 season proved to be a storybook ending to her minor hockey career. Not only did she commit to the University of New Hampshire to play Division I hockey, she represented Alberta at both the Canada Winter Games (CWG) and the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC).
“It’s amazing and surreal to say that I’ve been able to represent Alberta numerous times,” said Makokis. “It’s kind of cool to see how far I’ve come… I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates and coaches.”
Makokis first came on the scene five years ago when she played in the NAHC as a double under-age.
“As a rookie you have to earn your stripes and prove yourself a little bit more because people haven’t seen you play as much,” said Makokis. “You don’t have that experience that others may have had. Now I know what I need to do and how to prepare and play.”
Her confidence in her game didn’t happen overnight.
“Playing in short-term competition four times now at this level has made it a lot easier,” said Makokis. “I go into tryouts prepared and ready to go. I try to set that example for myself and for others, but overall, I just try to play my own game.”
Playing her own game is what Makokis does best, and it’s what solidified her spot on Team Alberta twice this season.
In December, Makokis was selected to Team Alberta U18 to compete at the 2023 CWG in Charlottetown, PEI. The team finished fifth overall. In May, Makokis brought home a bronze medal with Team Alberta Female from the 2023 NAHC in Winnipeg.
“The two are very different tournaments and styles,” said Makokis. “In PEI, it was super diverse and we were all there for hockey. At NAHC, we come from a common background and we are all there to play hockey as well as represent our people.”
A member of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, the opportunity to represent her people is why Makokis continues to try out for NAHC each year.
“It’s really humbling to say that my NAHC teammates are all my friends now,” said Makokis. “I’ll have them forever because we share the same experiences, have the same backgrounds and where we come from.”
Saddle Lake is an hour and 45 minutes away from St. Albert, where Makokis now calls home. She’s aware that living in the city has provided her with more opportunities than other people from Saddle Lake – and she understands the responsibilities that accompany being part of a generation that is blazing a trail for Indigenous youth in Alberta.
“It’s cool to be able to create that path and have other Indigenous youth know that they can do this too,” said Makokis. “I’m very proud to be Cree, to be Black and White, and I never realized that I’ve had that impact (on the next generation) over my short life that I’ve had.”
It’s not uncommon for Makokis to receive a message of support from someone watching her story unfold.
“It’s really cool to see I’m able to inspire my younger cousins and the other families on the reserve,” said Makokis. “I get messages saying ‘we’re all rooting for you and we’re all supporting you’ and I know that I have my entire community as well as several other communities in Alberta behind me. That’s amazing.”
Makokis is honoured to represent the Indigenous community on this large of scale, but her message for the next generation is clear.
“Just go for it,” said Makokis. “It doesn’t matter where you played the year before - as long as you go into the tryouts and be you. Take a chance on yourself and trust yourself. You’ve been playing hockey a long time and know these skills, so just trust yourself that you’re able to do it. Just go for it.”