Hockey Canada
East Kootenay
North Central
North West
Pacific Coast
Peace River
West Kootenay
BC Hockey Logo



For his work as a coach, leader and spiritual advisor, Calvin Swustus Jr. was recently presented with BC Hockey’s Indigenous Impact and Legacy Award.

A leader with the Salish Storm Hockey Association, Swustus promotes self esteem, physical health, social skills and culture to the children and youth through the sport of hockey in the Cowichan Valley.

First introduced to the sport by his father, Calvin Sr., at the age of five, Swustus now passes his knowledge on to the Indigenous youth and hockey players – some of which make their way into the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association.

“I honestly was not expecting such an award. It means a lot to myself as I reflect on my time playing minor hockey and now coaching,” said Swustus, who mostly played recreational hockey, except for one year of rep play.

His association with the Salish Storm happened by chance.

When the Salish Storm first moved into the Cowichan Valley, Swustus was unaware of what the program involved. It was his wife Iona who brought their daughter Maleah to an outing. Maleah came home and expressed her interest in playing hockey, so the following week he attended and introduced himself and eventually volunteered his time.

“Receiving an award like this means a lot to me,” he said. “I have a lot of coaches to thank, who guided me on how to coach, because the last time I was involved in minor hockey was 2003.”

Swustus said the sport of hockey drives him through teachings throughout his lifetime. He recalls being the age of 10 and telling his father that he wanted to quit because he had faced hurdles like racial slurs.

“I was getting called almost every name in the book. My dad gave me a speech saying he would be with me and guiding me along the way and explained how it would ultimately help me in life. I didn’t walk away. I kept playing,” he said of his experiences.

“As an adult now, I can honestly say it’s helped me. I’ve gained positive relationships and overcome tough hurdles.”

As an elected official with Cowichan Tribes, he said those experiences have helped create a thick skin.

“Now I’m at a point in my life where I want to coach and give positive guidance to youth,” he stressed, expanding his hopes of increasing the numbers of Indigenous youth involved in the game in the Cowichan Valley and beyond. “Our numbers have gone up, especially compared to when I was playing.”

But it’s more than just strategies or X’s and O’s that he relays on to his hockey pupils. Swustus – a former youth services coordinator, who is now a Gladue aftercare worker, assisting Indigenous clients navigate through court systems – uses culture in his teachings.

Before his hockey sessions, he starts off with opening remarks and sings Cowichan songs and drums.

“Within a couple of months of sessions, they were pounding their sticks on the ice to the beat of my drum,” said Swustus, 38, who began drumming at age 15 and was also dancing at age 10.

He loves nothing more than to intertwine culture into coaching and shares cultural teaching to help athletic performances. He’s also hoping to be an assistant coach on his daughter Maleah’s Cowichan Valley MHA team next season and still straps on the blades and equipment in men’s hockey, while serving his third term on Cowichan Tribes.

At BC Hockey’s 2024 Annual General Meeting in early June, Swustus was elected to join BC Hockey’s Board of Directors, marking the commencement of his inaugural two-year term in this significant leadership role.

“I’m very honoured to receive this award, especially from BC Hockey. It’s a huge honour and I appreciate it very much,” stressed Swustus, who has also worked as an adult outreach worker, working with persons with disabilities, and worked as the Legal Aid at the Duncan Court House. He also previously worked with the La’Lum U’tul Smuneem Child and Family services as a family connection worker.

Swustus filled the youth position to promote sports and health for the Cowichan 2008 North American Indigenous Games and spent 12 years participating in the North West Coast Salish war canoes races, and the Outrigger canoe races. 

The Indigenous Impact and Legacy Award is presented by BC Hockey to an individual, team, league or Association that has demonstrated a commitment to increase Indigenous inclusivity and participation in the sport of hockey.

Mario Annicchiarico is a freelance writer based in Victoria who has previously covered the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, as well as the Western Hockey League.