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All-Native Goodwill tournament grows to record size

Friday May 2, 2014
Bryan Phelan/Wawatay News

The Oji-Crees pose with their Atom championship trophy, banner and caps at the 26th annual All-Native Goodwill Hockey Tournament. Coaches of the team were, from back row, left: Mitchell Sutherland (Constance Lake), Alex Archibald (Taykwa Tagamou Nation) and Shawn Innes (Moose Cree). The players came from the same three communities.
Bryan Phelan/Wawatay News

Winners of the Peewee division at last weekend’s Goodwill tournament were the Couchiching Leafs. Ben Hackl and Ethan Jourdain each had a pair of goals for the Leafs in their 4-3 championship victory over the OFN Snipers. Brent Perrault assisted on both of Jourdain’s goals. Sniping for OFN were Dixon Maniss, who scored twice, and Jacob Kipling.

A record number of teams participated in the 26th annual All-Native Goodwill Hockey Tournament last weekend in Thunder Bay and Fort William First Nation. The tournament attracted 59 teams from across northern Ontario – the most ever for the event.

Thirty-nine youth teams competed in four divisions – Novice (for players eight years old and under), Atom, Peewee and Bantam (up to 14 years old).

A men’s division featured 21 teams playing for $21,000 in cash prizes.

There could have been even more teams but organizers Tony Bouchard and Karen Honan, a Gull Bay First Nation couple, had to turn away some late entries because they had run out of available ice time.

“We didn’t expect this kind of turnout because last year we only had 48 teams,” Honan said Sunday, when championship games were played in the main arena at Fort William First Nation.

Preliminary games, which started Thursday, were also played in the second rink at Fort
William, and in two arenas operated by the City of Thunder Bay – Port Arthur and Current River.
The organizers booked extra ice time at Current River a week before the tournament to accommodate some teams slow to register, but couldn’t make room for all of them.

“That’s hard on us too,” Honan said. “I don’t like turning them away, especially kids teams.”
Given this year’s turnout, she has already booked extra ice time for the last weekend of April next year.

“People keep telling us to just keep going because it’s getting bigger every year,” she said.
And for that reason, the 2015 tournament might even have to start earlier in the week, on a Wednesday, Bouchard added.

A lot of participants, the organizers have been told, look forward to the Goodwill as the annual windup to their hockey seasons. For some, it’s also a reunion with people they may not see the rest of the year.

Tony’s brothers, Murphy and Patrick, originally came up with the idea of an all-Native ‘goodwill’ tournament, which started with a dozen and peaked at 32 men’s teams. Along with the hockey, “It was supposed to be a socializing weekend,” Honan recalled.

It still is.

When Honan and Tony took over from Patrick as lead organizers 10 or so years ago, they added the youth divisions to the tournament. “We added the kids part to it because we thought it would be better to have a family event where the guys could play hockey but also coach the kids,” Honan explained. “And then it brings all the families out together.”

Alex Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation (TTN) last weekend coached his son Bryce’s team, the Oji-Crees, to the Goodwill Atom division championship.

Last year they won the same division as the TTN Eagles but for 2014 joined with players and coaches from Moose Factory and Constance Lake to form the Oji-Crees.

“The communities are small and the hockey base is small, so we wanted to work together, put our teams together,” Alex said of the change.

After losing their first game to the Treaty 3 Selects, the Oji-Crees went undefeated. They blanked the Onigaming First Nation (OFN) Snipers 6-0 in the Atom final “because we played hard, and because of our passing and backchecking,” said Bryce. It also helped that the centre and alternate captain scored a hat trick for the champions.

Bryce played recreational hockey for a Cochrane team this winter but will extend his season with triple-A summer hockey in Quebec.

To get to the Goodwill tournament, his family – including brother Shane, who played in the Bantam division – travelled nine hours by car.

“We like the setup, Aboriginals all together,” Alex said of the tournament, which guarantees each participating team a minimum of four games.

In the Peewee division, the OFN Snipers again reached the final, but were edged 4-3 by the Couchiching Leafs.

The following game, the Bantam Couchiching Leafs became champions by doubling the Lac Seul Jr. Eagles 4-2.

Pic River Sharks lost the Novice final 4-1 to the Ice Hawks but the Pic River men’s team won the B-side championship of their division with a 2-0 shutout of the GB (Gull Bay) IceLords.
Men’s A-side champions were the Big Grassy Braves, who defeated the Wolf Clan 11-3 and earned the top cash prize of $7,000.

Aside from winning, which in youth play came with a championship trophy, banner and caps, the best part of the Goodwill tournament for Bryce Archibald of the Atom Oji-Crees: “That my mom and dad drove all this way for a hockey tournament.”

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