Avid sports enthusiasts from the region are gearing up for this year’s Native Hockey Alberta Provincials, with many local teams set to compete.

This year’s provincials will be held from April 4-7 in Edmonton, and Treaty 8 representative Doug Chalifoux says the tournament is offered to all Indigenous hockey players from Alberta.

“Teams do not need to qualify for the tournament, the team enters in the category they want to play in and enter under their community’s name,” explains Chalifoux.

“All Indigenous players are eligible from the province of Alberta to enter the tournament under their own community, or they are eligible to play for another community entered in the tournament as we all know a lot of communities don’t have enough players to enter a team in the tournament.”

The Native Hockey Alberta Provincials board consists of five bodies: Treaty 8, Treaty 7, Treaty 6, Metis/Urban, and the President of Native Hockey Alberta Council.

The popular tournament was first held in 1993 in Calgary and has been a staple in the province for Indigenous hockey players every year, except for the two years Covid put a damper on play.

“This tournament was put on for the Indigenous hockey players to showcase their own hockey skills to have a chance to further their careers in hockey,” says Chalifoux.

“A lot of communities that have hockey teams are in isolated areas, so they only play in their own house leagues. This tournament gives them the chance to showcase their hockey skills as we do have several scouts that attend our tournament looking for skilled hockey players to fill spots on their junior teams throughout the different leagues,” he adds.

The tournament is a great opportunity for Indigenous youth to showcase their skills on a much larger stage than they are normally exposed to, and they’re also able to see the variances in cultures amongst the different communities.

“This year we have 258 teams from various communities throughout Alberta from the age of three to 21 years old,” says Chalifoux, noting that they are in U7, U9, U11, U13, U15, U18, or U21 age categories.

“There will be fast-paced hockey games from the U13 category to U21, in which will showcase great, talented Indigenous hockey players that play A, AA and AAA hockey.”

This year’s tournament will utilize 20 ice surfaces in Edmonton to host the games.

“The Elite division is new to our Native Hockey Alberta Championships this year,” says Chalifoux.

“A lot of people love coming out to our tournament to cheer on their family, friends or several teams from their home community that are attending the tournament.”

Interested teams can register online at the Native Hockey Alberta website www.nhac.ca, the schedule will also be posted on this website for anyone who wants to go watch and support their local teams.

by Emily Plihal Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – South Peace News – southpeacenews.com

Original Published on Feb 28, 2024 at 10:55