Hockey has provided the Bear family with highs, lows, incredible opportunities and exceptional memories.
But most importantly, the sport has created a special and unique bond for the six family members — parents Tim and Cindy, kids Kirk, Josh and twin sisters Kyla and Jordyn.
Between participating in their own games and practices, coaching, managing and watching each other’s games, the family has logged tens —if not hundreds— of thousands of hours at the hockey rink. And they’re continuing to add to their total.
“We grew up in the rink more than our house,” said Jordyn.
The tally started with Tim and Cindy in their youth. Tim played minor hockey and competed with the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame before moving into coaching. Meanwhile, Cindy played ringette before transitioning to hockey in Grade 10 when she and her family moved to Whitewood —where she met Tim— and eventually took on roles behind the bench both as a manager and coach. The pair both still play senior hockey.
With hockey playing a big role in their lives, Tim and Cindy had skates on all of their kids by the ages of three or four. While all the kids enjoyed the game, they weren’t always particularly enthusiastic about starting with skating basics.
“We absolutely disliked it because we didn’t know how to skate and our brothers were on the ice zooming past us while we were pushing chairs,” said Jordyn. “And I guess we wanted to be as quick as them, so we just kept with it and now we’re probably faster than them on the ice.”
Getting over the learn-to hump proved to be beneficial for all of the kids.
Kirk played most of his minor hockey in Whitewood and Ochapowace First Nation, as well as represented Team Saskatchewan at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) four times, winning three titles for the province. He then followed in his dad’s footsteps, attending Notre Dame and playing Midget AAA hockey with the Argos. From there, he played in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Red Deer Rebels and Prince George Cougars before moving to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) Melville Millionaires and Melfort Mustangs. He won a league championship with the Mustangs. He also spent three years on the ice for the University of Regina Cougars.
Josh started playing hockey with Ochapowace, while also representing and captaining teams at the NAHC. He made his Midget AAA debut with the Notre Dame Hounds and added a couple years with the Yorkton Maulers. He also spent some time at Manitoba’s Pilot Mound Academy as part of the North American Hockey League and played for the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs as well as the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzards. Currently, he’s a member of the Prairie Junior Hockey League’s (PJHL) Regina Capitals, but has hopes of making the U of R roster in the fall.
Jordyn and Kyla both received scholarships to play Division 1 hockey with the NCAA’s Rochester Institute of Technology for the 2021-22 season. This comes after playing minor hockey in Ochapowace, representing Saskatchewan at the NAHC, a two-year stint with the Midget AAA Melville Prairie Fire and, most recently, spending time in British Columbia competing in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League as part of the Okanagan Hockey Academy and the Rink Hockey Academy in Kelowna.
All four kids were also featured on the reality show Hit the Ice on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Kirk was on season 3 and Josh was on season 6, while Kyla and Jordyn were featured in season 7.
No matter where they’ve traveled for hockey or what level they’ve competed it at, all four kids are quick to acknowledge that their accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible if not for the support they’ve received from their family, especially their parents.
“They’ve been a really big influence,” said Kyla. “They made so many sacrifices that we couldn’t be more thankful to them for. They’re always there, the support for us has been phenomenal.”
“When Kirk was younger, we were having four hockey games some nights, two here and two there, and my parents always managed to make it happen and make sure we were fed, dressed and on the ice,” added Josh. “Now at my age, if I was doing what my parents did, I’d be pulling my hair out or already have grey hair. I don’t know how they managed to do it but they did it really well.”
Outside of their immediate family, the six have also received support from extended family and fostered relationships with the community of Ochapowace and other Indigenous people. Tim’s nephew, Robin BigSnake, who played in the Canadian Hockey League and attended National Hockey League camps, has acted as a mentor and role model for the kids.
Brigette Lacquette, the first Indigenous player on the Canadian women’s national hockey team, has also been role model and a sounding board for Kyla and Jordyn, both of whom dream to one day represent Canada on the international stage.
Even though there isn’t always direct contact, the general support from the Indigenous community both in Saskatchewan and across Canada has left a lasting impression on the family.
“When I played with Red Deer, I played against the Regina Pats in the Brandt Centre and I had just about half the rink full of First Nations people, from my reserve and all over Saskatchewan,” recalled Kirk. “I knew I always had support but it’s different when you see it in the stands like that, so that’s something that I cherish and it is pretty close to my heart.
“No matter where I went, whether that was playing in Vancouver, or playing in Brandon, I always had a First Nations man or woman come up to me and just talk with me. I always felt like I was home with somebody, and that’s something I really appreciated.”
Throughout the years, the family has returned that support to the people, the communities and the game that have given so much to them. Kirk, Josh, Kyla and Jordyn have each become role models in for Indigenous youth at Ochapowace, something they all feel humbled and honoured by.
“It’s something that you never really see yourself being, but in that position, it’s helped a me a little bit understand how I need to be in the future with people,” said Kirk. “You can grow up on a First Nation and you might not have a lot growing up, but it is possible to achieve great success.”
“It hit me one day and I realized that I’m making a path for the younger generation so they know they can do it,” added Jordyn. “Even though sometimes they don’t’ think they can, they have nothing stopping them.”
The mentality and desire to give back to hockey is what initially interested Tim in transitioning to a coaching role as a young man.
“Hockey always treated us well throughout my time,” Tim said. “It just opened doors for myself and gave me the opportunity to be part of teams and understanding what comes with hockey.”
The family as a whole has been working to provide those same opportunities for members of their own community. All of the kids have helped out at hockey camps or hosted afterschool skating programs where anyone can just stop by the rink for some fun.
Meanwhile, Tim and Cindy have spent years coaching, managing and volunteering not only with their own kids’ teams, but other teams in Ochapowace, around the province and at the provincial level. Sometimes their duties also included helping ensure team members arrive to practice and games by using the band’s recreation van for transportation. The pair did it happily, though, as they saw it as way to create positive relationships and experiences for the youth in their community, as well as teach life lessons.
“We always try to push, you know, ‘You’ve got to show up to practice and it’s just not you on the team, there’s 10 other kids you have to think about,’” said Cindy. “It’s kind of that whole aspect of sport and the possibilities for them and what they learn in the game. You learn how to respect your coach, you learn how to get along with others and you kind of form a family.”
“They’re going to local towns and understanding life beyond our borders, understanding how it is to go into a town and act at the rink and just teaching these kids because that was first and foremost just getting these kids some life skills,” added Tim. “There were rules walking in, the respect started right at the door, you don’t come into our room with a chip on your shoulder, no matter what you’re coming in as a regular kid and a hockey player, no matter what your skill was, you weren’t treated any different inside the dressing room.”
Any championships they may have won coaching teams along the way were great, it was the joy on the kids faces and the pride they felt playing hockey that were the biggest reward for Tim.
“It’s not about the medals on the shelves, it’s about that participation trophy that kids are getting and are so proud to show their kookum and mushum and their parents,” he said.
There’s a similar feeling when it comes to Bear family and all of their accomplishments, of which there are many. There’s no shortage of pride and love among them when they talk about each other and their successes. Whether it’s discussing how far someone has come, where they are in their lives now or where they are going, each of them are happy to boast about the others.
They’ve all won championships at multiple levels —between them in 2016, they each won a title or captured gold in four different events and leagues— but it’s experiencing those highs together and being there for each other during the lows that has fostered such a strong bond between them.
“It’s the people that you meet along the way and the memories you make together,” said Cindy. “Our family has been lucky and we’ve made some great memories.”