Frog Lake First Nation’s Cassidy Dion is off to a tremendous start to her collegiate hockey career.
After committing to a NCAA Division II scholarship at McKendree University, Dion’s Bearcats team won three of their first four games against Maryville University.
The freshman has 2 goals and 2 assists in four games and her coach even has Dion convinced that perhaps her prowess is best served on the offensive side of the puck.
“My coach put me as a forward which is odd for me because I am decent, but he told me, ‘Cassidy, I’m convinced you’re a forward. I told him, I will go wherever you need me.’ And it worked. Scored my first two goals of the season,” said Dion.
Dion signed to join the private university in Lebanon, Illinois in May. She is the first Indigenous person to attend the school–something she is intensely proud of, but also the distance from family and friends has been an adjustment so far.
“Here at McKendree, I am the only indigenous person out here and it gets tough sometimes because I feel like I don’t fit in or people make very ignorant comments, which they don’t mean to because they don’t know. But I’m proud of where I come from, which is a Frog Lake First Nation, only located 45 minutes from Bonnyville. I grew up in Bonnyville as well. And it’s just that it gets tough at times,” she said.
“But I think it’s an honour to be here and representing where I come from my family and just the people in general our indigenous communities is rising and there’s a lot of talent that’s coming with it now and I’m very happy to see that I just want to be a role model to all of the youth back home that whatever they put their mind to they can achieve it anything’s possible if you have the mindset.”
Also hailing from Whitefish First Nation, Dion was originally scouted when she played as a 14-year-old in Ontario playing against girls far older. That’s why she earned this scholarship.
But her focus is even more on the classroom.
“I’m majoring in biology right now, and I’m hoping to get into medical school to be a doctor. So right now our campus is very small, we get really close with our professors and meet one on one with them, which is an advantage for us,” said Dion.
“It also is an advantage because playing at this level of hockey and coming to school, we have to keep our grades up in order to keep playing. So far, our entire team is we’re all averaging at an A-plus in every single class, and that with the help of our coaches, or professors, just each other in general, we all try to push each other to succeed here.”
The McKendree Bearcats have their homecoming this Friday while they play Aquinas College.
During the semester break, Dion is hoping to return to the Lakeland area to host hockey camps for kids and she’ll pass those details along closer to December.