Tyler Tabobondung Rushnell, a 23-year-old artist from Wasauksing First Nation in central Ontario was provided with a box seat inside a guest suite as he watched his new favourite National Hockey League squad, the Toronto Maple Leafs, down the visiting Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Scotiabank Arena.
Rushnell had designed the warm-up jerseys the Maple Leafs wore on Saturday, Jan. 7, which was designated as the club’s Indigenous Celebration game.
Rushnell said former NHLer Mark Fraser, who is currently the Leafs’ manager of culture and inclusion, reached out to him via his Instagram account this past September. He said it took him less than a week to finalize the jersey design the Leafs’ brass approved. It included a Tkaronto Maple Leafs’ logo and a shoulder patch of a thunderbird.
Rushnell, who lives in Trenton, Ont., has spent the past half-dozen years working full-time as an artist and has more than 15,000 followers on Instagram.
Five days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs Facebook page wrote: “The Maple Leafs acknowledge the importance to use our platform to amplify and celebrate Indigenous culture in our city and surrounding communities. In our journey towards reconciliation, we have the responsibility to support local Indigenous artists and artisans, vendors and creators. Recognizing the deep history, we want to acknowledge, celebrate, and uplift Indigeneity from the past, present and beyond,” in a post featuring Indigenous design work