Nakehko Lamothe is being remembered as someone who was a tremendous teammate and a role model both on and off the ice.
Lamothe, who played with the MacEwan Griffins men’s hockey team in Edmonton, died in hospital in Calgary after collapsing in the dressing room and going into cardiac arrest following a game against the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary on Jan. 25. He was rushed to hospital but doctors were unable to revive him.
Griffins head coach Mike Ringrose said the alarm bells went off quickly once Lamothe’s teammates realized something wasn’t right.
“I hadn’t even gotten back to the locker room when it happened,” he said. “Our trainer was on it right away and our captain got the SAIT trainer as well. We called 911 and everyone involved did a great job with the situation. A lot of credit has to go to those people who did their best to try and save him.”
There wasn’t any panic among the team, he added.
“It’s a mature group we have here and they all stayed right out of it and made space,” he said. “There was nothing but concern for Nakehko.”
Once the news came that Lamothe had died, Ringrose said the shock set in.
“We have 27 guys on our roster and everyone handled it in their own way,” he said. “My job was simply to try and help them get through it with the help of the school. We’ve been telling them anything you’re feeling is OK. If you’re upset or not, if you’re scared or not, if you’re angry or not, there’s nothing wrong. It’s such an array of emotions and our job is to simply help them through it.”
Ringrose described Lamothe as someone who brought energy to every game and was a dedicated student athlete who focused on his health.
“He won our fitness testing challenge earlier this season,” he said. “He was the guy you always found working out in the weight room, first in and last out of the locker room and someone who always worked on his game. He wasn’t the most talented but he was one of the most hardworking guys we had. A great example for the rest of us to live by.”
Although he was born outside the NWT, Lamothe was a member of the Liidlii Kue First Nation.
Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson said he knew Lamothe’s grandparents, Ethel and Rene Lamothe, and their grandson’s death was a shock to him.
“Someone dying so young and in such good shape as he was is always tragic,” he said. “He was a good person and he came by it from his family. He came from good stock. The Lamothe family are very good people.”
His death was a topic of conversation at the village’s arena as the annual senior men’s hockey tournament was happening that same weekend.
“The response among a lot of people there was one of sadness,” said Thompson. “You’re always shocked when someone dies at a young age like that.”
The good stock Thompson mentioned extended into Lamothe’s work outside of the school, said Ringrose.
“He supported a lot of community events and was inspired by Indigenous youth,” he said. “He was always helping Indigenous youth and wanted to be a part of the community. It’s just an example of the leadership he showed and how selfless he was. He was determined to make a difference and he’ll always be remembered for that.”
MacEwan was supposed to play Red Deer College this weekend but those games have been postponed to a later date. The team travelled to Calling Lake, Alta., Lamothe’s hometown, for his funeral on Jan. 30 with the job of getting back on the ice now first and foremost.
Ringrose said the team was planning to be back on the ice this coming Monday for practice with the goal of getting back to normalcy.
“We’ll always think about Nakehko and move forward,” he said. “Not being back out on the ice would be a kind of disservice to him because that’s the kind of guy he was. He would want us to get back out and play.”