Granddaughter of hockey legend George Armstrong launches Indigenous youth hockey camp

28-year-old Kalley Armstrong is launching a training camp for Indigenous youth hockey players.

28-year-old Kalley Armstrong played hockey for Harvard University and coaches for the London Devilettes

Kalley Armstrong (right) poses with a CMO United player. (Submitted by Kalley Armstrong)

The granddaughter of Toronto Maple Leafs legend George Armstrong is launching a new hockey camp for Indigenous youth players in London.

Twenty-eight-year-old Kalley Armstrong moved to London after graduating from Harvard University, where she was recruited to play hockey, and now coaches for organizations including the London Devilettes and the Snipe Academy.

Her newly-formed hockey development company, Armstrong Hockey, is hosting its first training camp out of the London Sports Park in July.

The camp will feature guest coaching from some of Armstrong's hockey contemporaries, such as Kelly Babstock and Sydney Daniels, and will also incorporate cultural traditions.

"We're going to have a smudging ceremony, so that will obviously be very cool," said Armstrong.

Connecting to roots through hockey

Armstrong has spent her life immersed in the world of hockey, playing competitively in her childhood and going on to be scouted by Harvard.

But Armstrong said it's only in the past few years that she's seriously connected to her Indigenous roots through hockey. She is a graduate student in anthropology, and is wrapping up a master's thesis focused on her grandfather's life story. 

While coaching at the London training school Snipe Academy, Armstrong was also approached about coaching a local  novice girls' team, C.M.O. United, through the Little Native Hockey League, an annual tournament for Indigenous players.

"It was such a life changing experience for sure," she said. "I just love the kids."

The C.M.O. United girls' team won gold at every level in the 2019 Little NHL Tournament, Armstrong said. (Submitted by Kalley Armstrong)

Armstrong said she grew up admiring her grandfather and feeling proud of her Indigenous heritage. Still, she said her family felt a certain cultural disconnect, because her great-grandmother lost her status under the Indian Act after marrying a non-Indigenous man.

Now, Armstrong says coaching her C.M.O. United players has allowed her to watch children growing up with a strong sense of their culture.

"I guess what's very powerful to me in this situation is that I really am learning more from the kids than I think I'm teaching them," she said, noting that her players have taught her words in Oneida and other traditions.

Armstrong said she hopes her summer camp will serve as a way of giving back.

Spots for the camp have already filled up, and Armstrong said she's raising money to fill in funding gaps for players who need financial support.

"I want to ... mentor them any way that we can, whether it's talking about the importance of education or whether we see some kids that might need our support in any way," said Armstrong.

"And, obviously, having fun."