Alberta booted from gold medal game at National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

According to organizers of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, it's because the team refused to alter its travel plans in order to stick around for the final.

National Aboriginal Hockey Championships organizers say team wouldn't change flight to make the game

Alberta's boys team at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse. The team earned a spot in the finals on Sunday, but flew home before the scheduled game. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

They made the finals at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse — but instead of hitting the ice on Sunday for the gold medal game, Team Alberta was ejected from the tournament and hopped on a plane home.

According to tournament organizers, it's because the team refused to alter its travel plans — after trying to get organizers to reschedule the game according to the team's flight schedule.

A news release from the Whitehorse host committee says the tournament schedule was set weeks ago, and Team Alberta went ahead and booked a flight home before the final. The team was to depart Whitehorse at 3:40 p.m. on Sunday, while the gold medal game was scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

The release says the host committee in Whitehorse tried before the tournament to help Team Alberta reschedule its flight, but the team stuck to its plan.

The annual tournament — a showcase for elite Bantam and Midget-aged Indigenous players from across the country — began in Whitehorse last Tuesday.

By Friday, Alberta's boys team had earned a spot in the semi-finals.

The host committee says that's when tournament organizers and coaches met to talk about "the potential travel issue" for the Alberta team.

They decided the final would not be rescheduled.

"At that time, Alberta was asked to commit to making transportation changes, and commit to playing in the gold medal game, in the event the team advanced. At the time, Alberta told the [Aboriginal Sport Circle] that they would stay for the gold medal game," the news release says.

Team Alberta won its semi-final game and then "made attempts to get the tournament game schedule changed," the release states.

Tournament organizers were unwilling and instead the host committee tried to help Team Alberta change its flight.

Team Alberta beat Team Manitoba in a semi-final game on Saturday. But Alberta's departure opened up a spot for Manitoba in the finals, who took home the gold with 6-1 against Saskatchewan. (SportsCanada TV/National Aboriginal Hockey Championships)

"Local transportation partners went well above and beyond to assist in this situation and were holding space for the team to change their travel dates," the release states.

By Sunday afternoon, the team had not changed its travel plans and so was kicked out of the tournament, says the release.

That opened up a spot in the boys' final for Team Manitoba, which had earlier won the bronze medal match. Manitoba defeated Saskatchewan 6-1 for the gold, and B.C. was awarded the bronze medal. 

Saskatchewan and Manitoba also faced off in the girls' gold medal game on Sunday. Saskatchewan took the gold there, defeating Manitoba 5-1.

Saskatchewan was also named as host of next year's tournament in Regina.

CBC has made attempts to contact Team Alberta.