This month’s Alumni Spotlight features Wacey Rabbit, formerly of the Airdrie Xtreme and Calgary Northstars.
LETHBRIDGE – Wacey Rabbit, a proud member of the Kainai First Nation (also known as the Blood Tribe) in Alberta, played for a handful of associations in his minor hockey career, but it all began with Kainai Minor Hockey.
“I started playing hockey at the age of three on my reserve,” he said. “My mother had to take me to my grandparents at 5 a.m. so they could show her how to properly put on my equipment for the first practice.”
Wacey added that he wouldn’t be where he is today without the influence of his parents.
“They sacrificed so much so I could play hockey,” he said. “And for that, I will be forever grateful.”
Wacey would go on to play minor hockey in Fort MacLeod, Lethbridge, and then Airdrie. He played U15 AAA with the Airdrie Xtreme in 2001-02 (winning the Most Sportsmanlike Player award), and then moved on to play U18 AAA with the Calgary Northstars in 2001-02.
After suiting up with the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades for three games in 2001-02, Wacey joined the Blades full time for the 2002-03 season. That season led to his selection to Team Alberta for the 2003 Canada Winter Games. Not only was Wacey the first Indigenous hockey player to be selected to Team Alberta, but he also helped the team win gold. That same year, Wacey was also chosen to represent Canada at the 2003 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
After suiting up for the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game, Wacey was drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 5th round, 154th overall. Wacey would return to the WHL, however, the following season – his fourth with Saskatoon, and served as Captain of the Blades, and was awarded the Dough Wickenheiser Trophy as the WHL Humanitarian of the Year.
The following season, Wacey turned pro and appeared in 22 games with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate. But, partway through the season, he returned to the WHL, and the Blades traded him to the Vancouver Giants, who would go on to win the 2007 Memorial Cup.
Though he would never go on to play in the NHL, Wacey has played professional hockey ever since, and his career has taken him all over the world, with stops in Norway, the Asia League, Italy, the Czech Republic, Romania, and more. He is currently a player and Assistant Coach with the Jacksonville Icemen of the East Coast Hockey League, and served as Captain this past season.
Wacey still calls Alberta home during the offseason, and serves as a mentor to Indigenous youth and young adults, and is an active ambassador for Indigenous hockey. He also recently started his own hockey school, and spearheaded the WR20 Power Skills on Ice Hockey Development program, so that he can continue to give back to the hockey community.
“Hockey has opened so many doors for me,” said Wacey. “I met so many great coaches, players and families along the way. It taught me so many life lessons, and how to be a part of a team, and how to put others ahead of myself for the betterment of the team.”
Wacey’s advice for young, aspiring athletes is quite simple.
“Be a good teammate,” he said. “Listen, learn, and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!”
Wacey was also recently a guest on Hockey Alberta’s Centre Ice Podcast, where he spoke about his Indigenous roots, his pathway through hockey, and how he continues to honour his heritage and continue to give back to the game.