Team Manitoba brings home gold from Indigenous hockey tournament
Athletes play for gold after Alberta team was booted from championship
A team of young Indigenous male hockey players from Manitoba has brought home gold from a national tournament — just hours after they already won the bronze.
Team Manitoba returned to applause and hugs at the Winnipeg airport Monday evening from the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse.
The team had won the bronze medal Sunday, only to find out the team from Alberta had been disqualified because of a scheduling issue, meaning they would now have the chance to play in the championship game.
"It's not every day you get to play for bronze, and then end up going to the gold in the same day," said Conner Roulette, who also took home the award for best forward.
"None of us were prepared, but after that bronze medal game, we got healthy, we stayed hydrated, and we were able to top it off. We played outstanding, everybody played to the highest level."
Players with Team Manitoba arrive home at the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Winnipeg?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Winnipeg</a> airport after winning gold (mens) and silver (womens) at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Whitehorse?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Whitehorse</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCManitoba?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCManitoba</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CBCIndigenous?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CBCIndigenous</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcmb?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcmb</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NAHC2019?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NAHC2019</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/nahc2019?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nahc2019</a> <a href="https://t.co/uXI3LSBokc">pic.twitter.com/uXI3LSBokc</a>—@CBCMarina
Head coach Kevin Monkman said the team pulled through.
"We were playing for bronze yesterday morning, and halfway through the game, we were told if we win the game we're in the gold medal game."
The women's team brought home silver from the championship, while the Saskatchewan women's team took home gold.
Tournament removes barriers for Indigenous athletes
The National Aboriginal Hockey Championships showcase elite Indigenous players under the age of 18. Boys and girls teams from across the country take part.
The tournament aims to remove some of the barriers that First Nation, Metis, and Inuit hockey players might face in the sport.
Many of the players are high caliber, but might not have the opportunity to play elite hockey because they're from small or isolated communities.
"The exposure that they get and the travelling, and the camaraderie, amongst all of them, from all over the province of Manitoba. So they all come together for one week and they made lifelong friendships," Monkman said.
🎉Team Manitoba males are taking home Yukon Gold!!! ~ <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NAHC2019?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NAHC2019</a> 🥇🏆 Congratulations 🏒🥅 <a href="https://twitter.com/_MASRC?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_MASRC</a> <a href="https://t.co/zXiHybXbRp">pic.twitter.com/zXiHybXbRp</a>—@nahc2019
Roulette, who is from Misipawistik Cree Nation, said it was an "unbelievable experience" to play in the Yukon with Indigenous athletes from across the country.
"It's great to see that Indigenous hockey is as good as it is. You know it's like playing in MJ or WHL game. It's fast, it's competitive and it's hard hitting," Roulette said.
He encourages other Indigenous hockey players to follow their dreams.
"I would just say not to give up. Just follow your dreams. Someone's always going be there to bring you down, but you just got to put them aside and whatever you have, take it and just keep pushing," he said.
"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. Just keep playing your best."