Little NHL tourney once again canceled due to COVID-19

The Little Native Hockey League Tournament (LNHL) has once again been cancelled.

This event which draws approximately 200 teams and 3,000 people from First Nations communities from across the province was set to take place this coming March break in Mississauga. Now officials with the Little NHL made it official on Thursday, cancelling the 2021 tournament.

Marian Jacko, president of the LNHL executive said organizers heard from 120 respondents after issuing a survey to previous teams, asking if the tournament should resume for the upcoming season. “A lot of them were urging us to postpone it or cancel it or have some other format.”

Last March, just days before Opening Ceremonies, the 2020 Little NHL tournament was officially canceled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 across the province — and just a few days before Ontario went into full lockdown.

“I can’t say that I’m shocked. A bit of a disappointment but safety first,” Six Nations Minor Hockey Vice-President Dennis MacDonald said. “I think it is a big disappointment for the kids. They look forward to it every year. I don’t think this compares to other tournaments because there’s so many different skill levels of players that compete in the tournament.”

Following a meeting between the Nipissing First Nation host committee and the Little NHL executive committee, Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod stated, “I guess the only concern now, and it goes beyond the tournament, is when are we going to return to a state to have a tournament of this magnitude.”

Looking to the future, there is no anxiety that this annual March break tournament, which began in 1971, will lose its luster after not being able to have it for a couple of years.

“The spirit of the tournament is still alive and well,” McLeod said. “I think this tournament is entrenched in First Nation communities across Ontario. In fact, I think it might come back stronger than ever.’

Nipissing was set to host the tournament for 2020. Officials say the community can retain their right to host an upcoming tournament in the future.

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