Fears of COVID-19 sees 9 James Bay Coast teams pull out of Little NHL tournament

Fear of the Coronavirus is keeping some hockey teams from the Far North in playing in the biggest Indigenous tournament of the year.

Five teams from Kashechewan, three from Attawapiskat and one from Fort Albany staying home

Nine teams from Ontario's Far North have pulled out of the 2020 edition of the Little Native Hockey League tournament because of concerns with Coronavirus. (Facebook )

Nine teams from the James Bay Coast have pulled out of the Little NHL Indigenous hockey tournament due to concerns about Coronavirus.

Teams from Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat have decided not to play in the annual tournament in Mississauga starting on Sunday. 

They're worried about bringing COVID-19 back to their isolated communities.

"It's going to spread like wildfire, especially in a community like Attawapiskat, because people are crammed into houses, sometimes two, three families in one household," says Attawapiskat Chief David Nakogee.

He says his First Nation will look at other ways to keep COVID-19 from coming to their community, which could include restricting outside visitors.

"That was just one way to prevent the virus from going up north. I know it will eventually come up there. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when, right?" says Nakogee.

Linda Debassige, the Chief of M'Chigeeng on Manitoulin Island, has called for the Little NHL tournament to be cancelled this year to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus. 

But the tournament featuring over 200 youth hockey teams is set to go ahead as scheduled.

Organizers do say they'll be taking extra precautions to protect players and spectators. 


Erik White


Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to