This story was published in the Winter 2023 issue of Total Sports Quinte magazine
Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Jaxen Boyer and Creo Solomon love playing for the Wellington Dukes and in front of the Ontario Junior Hockey League club’s passionate fans at Lehigh Arena.
A home game Sunday, Feb. 19 will be extra special, though, as the Dukes honour and remember the children of Canada’s residential schools. The Every Child Matters game against the Caledon Admirals is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the arena located inside the Wellington & District Community Centre (111 Belleville Street, Wellington).
“I’m sure it will be a great game,” Boyer said. “I’ll be playing with a lot of emotion and so will Creo Solomon and (we want to) get the win for the Dukes.”
Boyer noted both he and Solomon have Metis heritage and he appreciates that the Every Child Matters movement and this upcoming game helps continue the dialogue about the suffering of Indigenous peoples.
“It means a lot for me and my family,” Boyer, who was born and raised in Trenton, said. “It’s finally shedding some light on the native struggles. It’s good for people to start to recognize what we have gone through in the past. I’ve learned a lot through what they had to go through in the past, their rituals and their spiritual beliefs. My brother went to university for it and he learned a lot through that and my brother has taught me a lot.”
Boyer, who was acquired in a trade from the Trenton Golden Hawks last season, said “it’s been an honour to play for the Dukes.
“They’ve really brought me out of my shell,” he added, noting his teammates are great and he enjoys playing for great coaches like Derek Smith and Tyler Longo. “Everybody involved with the Dukes is awesome, the fans, and they’ve really allowed me to become the person I am today.”
Solomon, who is from Sault Ste. Marie, is in his first season with the Dukes. He loves the atmosphere, whether that’s all the time spent with great teammates or playing in front of great fans. He aims to be a role model for young players when he competes.
“I just go out there, play hard and show them you can be a great hockey player with Indigenous heritage,” he said. “Go out there and work hard is really my biggest thing so hopefully if any kids see that, that’s what they’ll take away from those games.”
Last year, Solomon had the opportunity to play for Team Ontario at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Cape Breton for U18 players and won gold.
“That was one of the best tournaments of my life,” he said. “I got to be an assistant captain on that team and really be a big part part and help our team win gold. It was an awesome tournament.”
Like Boyer, Solomon appreciates the upcoming Every Child Matters game.
“It means a lot,” Solomon said. “I always love to represent aboriginal hockey players throughout tournaments I’ve played in in the past. It means a lot to me when I get to do it so with the Dukes wearing the orange jerseys and representing Every Child Matters, it’s a big deal to me and I like that we’re doing it.”
Richard Sager, from Sager Pallets & Recycling, is a key sponsor for the game, purchasing the memorial jerseys that will be auctioned off as a fundraiser following the Feb. 19 game. He’s gone a step further to purchase more that will be for sale around the area.
He was quick to jump on board to support the game hosted by the Dukes.
“I believe it’s all going to go for a good cause,” Sager said, noting he’s been supporting initiatives such Every Child Matters for the past decade by selling shirts, flags and other items. He also had donated to the Dukes winter clothing drives as well as the Angel Tree program in Tyendinaga.
His support is not just about the Every Child Matters movement. For Sager, every child does matter.
“It’s part of our culture to help wherever it’s needed,” he said.
Having attended Dukes games for the past five years, Sager enjoys watching junior hockey with players in the 16-20 age group. He prefers it to professional hockey.
“I prefer to watch these kids that give 110 per cent all the time,” he said.