200 teams, 2,500 players: Little NHL tournament underway in Mississauga

Chief Isadore Day says a city the size of Mississauga is really the only place that can hold the Little NHL, because the tournament draws such an influx of teams from around the province.

Smaller cities shut out as week-long event drawing more teams

Hockey greats from left Stan Jonathan, Reggie Leach, Fred Sasakamoose, Jonathan Cheechoo with Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day at the opening ceremonies for the 46th Annual Little Native Hockey League tournament, held in 2017.

It started as a 17-team tournament on Manitoulin Island in 1971. But now the Little Native Hockey League Tournament has become such a draw that organizers say only bigger cities like Mississauga can accommodate the week-long event.

Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said the numbers have exceeded his expectations, as organizers say the event has attracted more than 2,500 hockey players from across the province.

"Again, another record-breaking year in terms of the amount of players, the amount of teams," Day said.

"So, a stellar tournament and something that helps bring the economy into the city of Mississauga. It's just, all-around, good for everybody."

Last year Greater Sudbury put in a bid to host the tournament, but Mississauga was awarded the event.

Day says a city the size of Mississauga is really the only place that can hold the Little NHL, because the tournament draws such an influx of teams from around the province.

"We used to have this tournament in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and other smaller locations," he said. "But because it's gotten so big, we need a bigger centre like this. This might be the last year [in Mississauga], but [organizers] might be looking for another location just as big going down the road."

The tournament wraps up this Sunday.