Sports

Zach Whitecloud: The NHL Star Who Is Bringing An Indigenous Flare To The Game

Zach Whitecloud

Zach Whitecloud is an ice hockey player who plays professionally for the Vegas Golden Knights of the National Hockey League (NHL). The solid defenceman didn’t have a very storied college career and went undrafted during the NHL Draft. However, he signed as a free agent with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2018 and has built a solid career in the world’s premier hockey league since then. Zach Whitecloud is renowned for his work off the rink as well. He is a well known member of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation and has worked towards the improvement of the indigenous community. In this post, we will find out more about Zach Whitecloud. Let’s get started.

Zach Whitecloud: All You Need To Know

When was Zach Whitecloud born?

Zach Whitecloud was born in Brandon, Manitoba on November 28, 1996. Zach Whitecloud studied at the Vincent Massey High School, graduating in 2015.

Is Zach Whitecloud Native American?

Yes, even though Zach Whitecloud was born in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, he is actually of Dakota descent. He spent a lot of his life in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. Zach Whitecloud has claimed both Brandon and Sioux Valley as his homes and has embraced his First Nations heritage. Zach Whitecloud’s father Tom Whitecloud and mother Donna Cullen are both members of the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBMZZ1bWvoM

Zach Whitecloud’s strong connection with his indigenous heritage was shaped by his father. Even though the family lived in Brandon, Manitoba, they used to drive and visit the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation very often. This helped Zach Whitecloud retain his bond with the First Nations. Zach Whitecloud loved spending time with his numerous family members who still lived in the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. He played along with his cousins, uncles and aunts. 

Zach Whitecloud has never tried to shy away from his indigenous identity and has fully embraced it. He always maintains that both Brandon, Manitoba and Sioux Valley are his homes.

Zach Whitecloud has been an active participant in the effort that has been made for the upliftment of the First Nations. Zach Whitecloud has been active in giving back to the community and has volunteered as a guest instructor at some hockey schools. Zach Whitecloud’s sporting excellence and unwavering commitment to his community have inspired a lot of kids to pick up hockey. The Sioux Valley Dakota Nation has also expressed a lot of pride and admiration towards Zach Whitecloud.

How did Zach Whitecloud start his hockey career?

Zach Whitecloud was a natural born skater. He started skating almost as soon as he could walk, at the age of two. Whitecloud’s talent shined through all age groups and he played for Sioux Valley and the Brandon Youth Hockey Association as a teenager.

How did Zach Whitecloud start his professional hockey career?

While playing youth hockey for the Virden Oil Capitals, Zach Whitecloud committed to playing college hockey for Bemidji State University. Zach Whitecloud quickly became the star of the hockey program and led all the defencemen in scoring. Because of his stellar performance, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings invited him to their developmental camp in 2017. Zach Cloud went on to have an even more impressive sophomore year at Bemidji State and won the 2017–18 WCHA Scholar-Athlete award and made it to the WCHA All-Academic Team. He racked up a team high 51 blocks during the season and scored 19 points on top of that.

NHL Calling: Vegas Golden Knights

Even though Zach Whitecloud performed well at the Bemidji State University, no NHL team picked him on draft night. However, Zach Whitecloud tried out with multiple teams and eventually, the Vegas Golden Knights signed him to a three year deal. 

NHL Debut

After being signed by the Golden Knights, Zach Whitecloud made his official debut for the team on April 5, 2018.The Golden Knights locked horns with the Edmonton Oilers in a closely fought match that resulted in a 4-3 victory for the Oilers. However, everybody was impressed with Whitecloud’s performance as he ended up with the best plus-minus rating for the team. He received a little under 17 minutes of ice time. The Vegas Golden Knights had a good season and made it to the 2018 Playoffs. Unfortunately, Zach Whitecloud was unable to help his team as he wasn’t on the team’s reserve list by the trade deadline, making him ineligible to compete in the Playoffs.

Zach Whitecloud suffered from a slight dip in form after the 2017-18 season. After a few struggles in the training camp, the Vegas Golden Knights assigned Zach Whitecloud to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Chicago Wolves.

Bounceback year

Even though Zach Whitecloud was assigned to the Golden Knights’ affiliate team, he made a roaring comeback to the main roster in the 2019–20 season. Zach Whitecloud teamed up with Nick Holden to create one of the best playoff defensive duos of the NHL. Zach Whitecloud was promptly rewarded with a two year contract extension in the off season. As Zach Whitecloud’s play continued to improve, the Vegas Golden Knights signed him to a six-year, $16.5 million contract extension in 2021.

Stanley Cup Triumph

Zach Whitecloud anchored the defensive backbone of a solid Vegas Golden Knights team as they entered the 2022-23 NHL season. The Golden Knights had a solid season and made it to the playoffs. The Golden Knights squared off against the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the playoffs. The Jets happen to be the team from Whitecloud’s province of birth. They were the favourite team of all of Whitecloud’s family members till Whitecloud joined the Vegas Golden Knights. 

The Golden Knights had a stellar postseason campaign and reached the Stanley Cup Finals. They squared off against the Florida Panthers. The finals series was also notable for having two Indigenous players, Zach Whitecloud on the Golden Knights and Brandon Montour on the Panthers. Co-incidentally, both the players are defencemen. The Vegas Golden Knights ended up winning the series in five games and Zach Whitecloud became a Stanley Cup Champion. He even brought the Stanley Cup to the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation.

International career

Zach Whitecloud made it to Team Canada’s roster for the 2017 Karjala Cup in Finland. Later on, he even made the team’s pre-Winter Olympic roster and attended camp. However, he wasn’t selected for the final squad.

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