Nova Scotia

National Aboriginal Hockey Championships to be held in Mi'kmaq community for 1st time

For the first time, the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships are being held in a Mi'kmaq community. 20 teams of elite bantam- and midget-aged players will be in Membertou this weekend to play in the community's new sports centre.

About 600 elite aboriginal hockey players from across the country will be in Membertou this weekend

Membertou Chief Terry Paul, left, and event organizer Gerard McPhee hope day passes for $5 will bring lots of people to the rink to watch the elite hockey. (Joan Weeks/ CBC)

Elite Indigenous hockey players from across Canada are in Membertou, N.S., this weekend for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. 

The event is described as a focal point for grassroots and regional hockey development.

This is the first time the championships have been held in a Mi'kmaq community, said Membertou Chief Terry Paul. "We're very proud of that."

The championships showcase the abilities of the best bantam and midget-aged Indigenous players from across Canada.

Paul said in total, about 600 athletes on 10 male and 10 female teams are taking part, with players from as far away as the Northwest Territories and as close as Eskasoni and Membertou.

Membertou's chief says the community's new sports centre helped bring a national hockey event to Cape Breton. (George Mortimer/CBC)

The head of the organizing committee, Gerard McPhee, said the level of play will be great to watch. 

"They are the very best aboriginal hockey players that are around. It's expected to be some strong hockey, so I think fans will be impressed." 

McPhee said it took about a year to develop the bid and then organize the event.

"They did a site visit before they awarded the games to us. They were very impressed."

Paul said Membertou's new Sports and Wellness Centre, with its two NHL-sized ice surfaces, helped seal the deal.

But Paul said it's not all about hockey.

Several events are planned to entertain participants, including workshops at the Membertou Heritage Park and a spring powwow. 

"We want to make sure they experience a very, very pleasurable and welcoming experience," said Paul. "We like people to think about it when they're back home and they will remember Cape Breton. This is where we want them to come back to."

About the Author

Joan Weeks

Reporter

Joan Weeks has been a reporter with CBC in Sydney for over a decade. Many of her stories are investigative with a focus on government spending and accountability, as well as health and economic issues important to Cape Breton.

With files from Information Morning