By TRT Staff
MANITOBA — This year, U18 and U15 Indigenous youth hockey players from across the country will be congregating in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC).
In just under two weeks time, the Seven Oaks Sportsplex will see hundreds of Indigenous athletes from May 7 to 13.
Representing Haudenosaunee: Alexia Hill of Six Nations and Hayden Summers of the Oneida Nation of the Thames will play for the Female Team Ontario, while Bo Doxtator and Zander Kechego of the Oneida Nation of the Thames will play for the Male Team Ontario.
“We’ve been waiting for many years to have the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships back in Manitoba,” said Manitoba Sports & Recreation Council Executive Director Mel Whitesell. “We are so happy to have been awarded the 20th Anniversary Championships that will be played at Seven Oaks Sportsplex in May.”
It’s also the 20th Anniversary of the NAHC and has returned to the Sportsplex for the first time since 2009.
The male and female championships were established by the Aboriginal Sport Circle and are sanctioned by Hockey Canada. They boast the greatest collection of young First Nation, Inuit and Metis hockey players, competing in separate male and female U18 competitions.
The event showcases two outstanding hockey tournaments, and fosters cultural unity and pride. Some of Canada’s greatest players have competed in the NAHC including former NHL players Jordin Tootoo, Micheal Ferland and Brady Keeper; current NHL players Ethan Bear (Vancouver Canucks), Brandon Montour (Florida Panthers) and Zach Whitecloud (Vegas Golden Knights); and National Senior Women’s Team members Jocelyne Larocque, Brigette Lacquette and Jennifer Rattray. Former NHL Coach of the Year, Ted Nolan was behind the bench of female Team Ontario in the NAHC in 2016.
The first NAHC was held at Akwesasne and while Manitoba won gold in the male event, Ontario South claimed the championship in the female competition.
Since then, Manitoba’s young women have won five gold medals, one silver medal and four bronze medals while the young men have won three golds, two silvers and six bronze medals. Manitoba’s women, coached by Dale Bear, are the defending national champions. Manitoba’s men, who last won gold in 2019, are coached by former NHL player Micheal Ferland.
For 2024, Niagara Falls will be in the running to rival Saskatchewan to host the championships. On April 11, the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC) was informed by Councillor Greg Fazer that the bid will support Niagara Falls and the opportunity, if given, will benefit the Six Nations community.
According to Section Two of the Bid Manual prepared by the NAHC, “only one bid per province or territory will qualify for consideration.” It also explains that the host society must be a local, insurable, incorporated and not-for-profit entity, often created prior to the NAHC championships and dissolved within 6 months, post-event.