Smudge the Blades premiered in 2020 shortly after the pandemic began. After seeing hockey games and tournaments canceled at the time, Kingfisher saw that some people needed something to do with Indigenous hockey. He thought it was the perfect time to pitch some of his ideas.
“I put together a couple of designs that I’ve been working on for the past two years, and I just launched my brand, and it took off,” he said. “Within a month, CTV picked up my brand, they wanted to do a story on it, and after that, it was amazing. The support from across Canada has been insane.
The local business owner explained that he started the business to celebrate Indigenous hockey culture and bring laughter and pride to those who wear the clothes. Some clothing features Cree and English messages, such as “never sick while” or “real deadly hockey player.”
“I try to use my platform to showcase Indigenous hockey players, Indigenous excellence and also to address things that aren’t the best to read on social media. I’m talking about racism; I talk about all that stuff. So you see on my social media (you) see happy people, they are proud to wear my clothes,” he explained, adding that people send him stories about who they are and where they are from. and share them with their audience.
He said the meaning of his designs is in the native culture. He said everyone was pretty humorous and wanted to create more laughs, which he’s seen in the Aboriginal hockey tournaments he’s been to.
“That’s why I wanted to create these designs like this because I want to create a conversation. People when they look at one of my sweaters, they see a design and it makes them laugh and they say, ‘hey, where did you find that?’ Cree designs, someone will look at the Cree hoodie and say, ‘hey what does that mean?’ It creates conversation and, in a way, it also keeps the Cree language alive.
According to him, the Aboriginal children and adults bearing his mark contribute greatly to bringing Aboriginal hockey to the fore. He’s also had non-Natives to represent the brand and even current NHL players.
The brand also gives back to the community in other ways through financial assistance. Proceeds from each sale are used to help First Nations children purchase hockey equipment or pay registration fees. Since starting the business, he’s helped hockey teams and many kids play the game they love.
“Why I wanted to do that is because when I was younger I obviously played hockey growing up, but there were times when I didn’t have equipment that suited me and my dad was just going at the pawnshop and buy me gear,” said Kingfisher. “There were times when I had friends who were really good hockey players, but their parents couldn’t afford it, so they stopped playing hockey.
He also started a hockey scholarship program. Kingfisher donated $4,000 last year to two athletes who play college hockey.
On Twitter: @IanGustafson12