Championship hockey slated for this weekend
Championship hockey will rule this weekend with the Northern First Nations finals scheduled on Friday and Saturday and the Northern Bands finals on Sunday.
“It’s exciting and I look forward to seeing what’s happening,” said Margaret Kenequanash, Sioux Lookout’s Northern First Nations tournament organizer. “We have (the C-Side) final on Friday evening. Then on Saturday we’ll do B-Side final at 10 a.m. and A-Side at noon.”
This year’s Northern First Nations tournament features 17 teams, including the two-time defending A-Side champions, the Lac Seul Eagles, and the 2010 champion Pikangikum Screaming Otters. The tournament is being played at the Sioux Lookout Memorial Arena from March 11-16.
Last year’s A-Side runnersup, the Michikan Mavericks, and the C-Side champions, the Bamaji Ice, are also playing in the tournament, as are the 2011 B-Side champions, the Hudson Bay Cree, and the 2011 C-Side runnersup, the Mishkeegogamang Falcons.
“What I see over a number of years is a turnover of teams that have younger players that are able to play more organized hockey, which makes for a more competitive hockey,” Kenequanash said. “There’s some good games lining up there this week.”
The Northern First Nations tournament also features two exhibition games on March 11 and 13 by minor hockey teams, a puck-shooting challenge on March 14 and a syllabic chart recital challenge on March 15.
The Northern Bands tournament, happening in Dryden, features 24 teams, including the Northern First Nations 2012 B-Side champion, the Sandy Lake Chiefs, and C-Side runners up, the Pikangikum Moose. The tournament is being played at the Dryden Memorial Arena from March 12-17, with some games on March 16 at the Eagle Lake Arena.
“There’s going to be good hockey; there’s going to be good rivalries,” said Max Kakepetum, Northern Bands tournament organizer. “You’ve got Sandy Lake, Pikangikum, Sachigo, Kasabonika — they’re bringing in two or three teams, so there is going to be some good hockey there.”
Kakepetum said the focus is on featuring players from the communities in the Northern Bands tournament.
“It’s basically for northern band hockey, isolated communities,” Kakepetum said. “Most of the communities elected to stay with their own community members — you have to be a member of the band to play with the team.”
The Northern Bands tournament also features visits by former NHL players Wayne Babych and Thomas Steen and Liberal Party of Canada interim leader Bob Rae, movies for children, an old-timers game between northern First Nation old-timers and Dryden old-timers on March 14 and a community feast on March 16.
Although Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug’s hockey teams signed up for the Northern First Nations tournament, KI Chief Donny Morris said the Northern Bands tournament in Dryden is a “wakeup call” for Sioux Lookout.
“To me, it’s going to give Sioux Lookout a wakeup call,” Morris said. “We always said us people up north are the ones that are taking our monies to Sioux Lookout. Now with that (tournament) gone, I don’t know how much of an impact it will make, but definitely, Dryden will benefit a lot.”
Morris said the hockey players at the Dryden tournament will enjoy their visit.
“I hear it’s going to be a warm welcome,” Morris said about the Dryden tournament. “It’s a good environment.”
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