By Chevi RabbitLocal Journalism Initiative Reporter Alberta Native News
Harlan Kingfisher created Smudge the Blades as a way to highlight the sport he enjoyed as a youth and to reach out to Indigenous families across Turtle Island. He recognizes that hockey is financially out of reach to most Indigenous families – and that he can make a difference.
Through Smudge the Blades Apparel he gives back by donating large portions of his sales to charitable endeavours that centre around hockey and Indigenous youth development. He has provided $1,000 bursaries to Indigenous hockey players that are playing university hockey.
Smudge the Blades is an emerging success across Canada thanks to popular social media platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok. Overall, the company resonates with Indigenous hockey families as well as the public at large.
Kingfisher is from Sturgeon Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan.
“I grew up playing hockey from the age of five until I left my community at age 17 to play Junior Hockey,” he explained. “I played junior Hockey in Manitoba for a couple of years, then I received a scholarship from a school in Alberta for the Vikings in Camrose.”
“I wanted to showcase an Indigenous brand that featured Indigenous Hockey because it played such an important role in my life,” said Kingfisher.
“My wife and I met through hockey, and we have been together for almost 15 years and married for 14 years; we have four children. I’ve been a power engineer for about 12 years now and I recently went into an entrepreneurship journey and started Smudge the Blades in October of 2020.
“Hockey allowed me to travel across Canada,” he said, “so I played hockey in pretty much every province.”
Hockey has played such a positive role in Kingfisher’s life and now our kids are growing up playing hockey, he explained.
“I want to create a brand that showcases Indigenous hockey and how big it is in Indigenous communities.”
“My dad was a farmer, and I was the only kid able to afford to play hockey in my community,” he said. “That’s why I give back to my community and other Indigenous communities because I know it is expensive … I have paid hockey costs for families with the money I made with Smudge the Blade.”
“I gave away $4,000 in scholarships to four hockey players back in September. I also want to increase my scholarship program and reach out to other businesses that want to help,” said Kingfisher.
When asked about how his company got its name – Smudge the Blades – Kingfisher elaborated, “While playing hockey, I got injured pretty badly,” he said. “So, I saw my Mosum Clifford Sanderson from James Smith Cree Nation.
“I had a pretty sore back, and I went to see my Mosum, and he is a medicine man … He put some medicine on and told me I’ll be ready to play tomorrow. So, then I was like yeah, right mosom, like I could barely walk. So, I just put some medicine on me.”
When Kingfisher woke up the following morning, able to play hockey, he was amazed.
“I was like, oh my God, and then I went to talk to him that afternoon to explain that his medicine worked.”
He described what happened to his mother and she offered some advice about how to show appreciation.
“My mom told me to smudge my gears – which is where the name derived from.
“That was the whole thing about Smudge the Blades’ name and why. I created it back when COVID hit and everything shut down. All the hockey tournaments were canceled. Everything was canceled. Everyone was sad, and we didn’t know what to do during the pandemic,” said Kingfisher.
“Seeing how everyone on Facebook and Instagram was like COVID canceled everything, we didn’t have anything to do. As Indigenous people, we are culturally active – we have huge powwows in the summertime and hockey in the wintertime, and it was all taken away from us during the pandemic.”
“I figured this was the best time to launch this idea that I had in 2020 – it was buy a hoodie and tell a story. That was what they needed; they needed something to be involved with during Covid 19,” said Kingfisher.
“I played with Wacey Rabbit back in the day, and he was spotted wearing a Smudge the Blades hoodie online. Other social media influencers like Ashley Callingbull-Rabbit also sported my hoodie.”
“That’s how I grew my brand with influencer marketing. Last year, I also won Pow Wow Pitch” to help grow the business.
According to the website Pow Wow Pitch is a grassroots community of Indigenous entrepreneurs across Turtle Island, purpose-built to provide a safe, collaborative, supportive and empowering platform for inspiration, education, mentorship, celebration, and reconciliation through entrepreneurship. The initiative has grown this year to include all Indigenous people of any age, with an idea or business, at any stage from any industry from Canada or the USA are welcome to pitch.
“My goals are coming to fruition,” said Kingfisher. “My vision for the future is to make hockey accessible to people all over Canada.”
Anyone who would like to reach out to Kingfisher and Smudge the Blades can follow his journey on Facebook and Instagram or email him at email@example.com.