First Nations hockey players from across Ontario are in Mississauga this March Break for the 43rd annual Little Native Hockey League Tournament.

Stan Beardy, the Ontario Regional Chief with the Chiefs of Ontario and political advocate for the 133 First Nations communities located in the province, said he's so happy for the dozens of teams and the hundreds of kids taking part.

 "You should see the faces of those little kids at the arenas, the eyeballs are so round and they're so excited."

'It's a big thing'

Beardy said it's not only about about what happens on the ice. He said one lucky team was picked to have dinner with Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Ted Nolan and Stan Beardy

Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan with Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy at the Little NHL tournament in Mississauga, Ont. (Supplied)

A young team from Six Nations of the Grand River sat down with Nolan for hot dogs and hamburgers.

Beardy said it is a community effort for the First Nations that are able to take part in the Little NHL tournament.

"They fund raise all year to get ready for this, it's a big thing for these kids and parents."

On a more personal note, Beardy said it is really fun to watch young kids playing hockey again. Ten years ago his son Daniel Beardy, a Junior A goalie in Thunder Bay, was killed. Beardy said it was hard to watch hockey after his son's death.

The annual Little NHL tournament started in 1971 with 17 teams and about 200 players and has grown in popularity each year to the point where there are now thousands of participants.

To hear the complete interview on CBC News Thunder Bay Superior Morning radio program, click here.