MISSISSAUGA — The Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament was started by five people who wanted to start a tournament exclusively First Nation Youth. Earl Abotossaway, former Chief Jim McGregor, the late James D. Debassige, the late Reverend Leonard Self and the late Norman Debassige were among them. Their collective dreams became a reality when they held their first tournament during the Christmas break in 1971.
Doug M. Cheechoo, continues the tradition as this year’s LNHL Coordinator.
“It is a great honour for all to keep up the tradition of the Little NHL tournament started by these special individuals,” he posts on the ‘lil NHL website. “The first tournament had 17 teams and a modest 200 players in Little Current. Today, the tournament has grown to over 170 teams and over 2,500 players.” By this past weekend that number has increased to 204 teams.
The girl’s hockey category is exploding as 35 girl’s teams will make the journey to Mississauga this year, up dramatically from last year.
“Many First Nation communities have hosted the tournament over the 44-year history. Some of these First Nations include Aundeck Omni Kaning, Curve Lake, Dokis, Fort William, Garden River, M’Chigeeng, Nipissing, Sagamok, Saugeen, Six Nations, Walpole Island, Wausauksing, Wikwemikong, Whitefish Lake and Whitefish River.
Many of our former L’NHL’ers have gone on to various levels of Hockey excellence with “AA”, “AAA”, Tier II, Junior B, College/University, OHL and NHL level of play. The caliber of players gets better with each passing year, while the spirit and intent of the tournament created by the founders remains the same.”
The tradition continues March 12 with the four pillars of Education, Citizenship, Sportsman and Respect.”