After the rink was erected in the fall of 1948, the team was officially formed and named. It was entered as a bantam aged team into the Sioux Lookout and District Hockey League. Now it needed some players! Tryouts began on the new rink in December 1948. None of the boys had skates or sticks. The equipment was supplied by donations from local citizens and through a grant from Indian Affairs. Astonishingly, none of the boys trying out for the team had ever skated before, and thus the establishment of the inaugural hockey team was very impressive.
Photo: learning to play with Bruce McCulley, assistant coach, ca. late 1930s.
After practicing for several days, the coaches reported that a dozen boys could skate the entire length of the ice without falling. They were deemed ready for competition. The first game, against a local boy's team that had far more experience, was held in the Sioux Lookout Memorial rink in January 1949. The Black Hawks were like many other minor hockey teams in that their name and logo were adopted from the professional league; here, the Chicago Black Hawks. Soon after forming, they traveled to Kenora to play in their first all-Indian residential school tournament that included Fort Frances, Cecilia Jeffrey, and McIntosh school, all located in Northwestern Ontario.
Photo: students playing hockey in the schoolyard, ca. late 1940s.
In the winter of 1950, Paul Martin, Minister of National Health and Welfare, and Dr. Percy Moore, Director of Indian Health Services, travelled to Sioux Lookout to officially open a new Indian Hospital. During their visit, Martin and Moore attended a Black Hawks exhibition game. Martin was so impressed with the team that he began to work in cooperation with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration (where Indian Affairs was located) to organize a hockey tour to the national and provincial capitals, Ottawa and Toronto. The Black Hawks, and hockey, had become an important symbol for Indigenous assimilation.
Photo: Black Hawks, ca. late 1940s.