Team North brought home a range of individual awards from this month’s National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
The championships were held in Whitehorse over May 6-14; the first time Team North has hosted.
Youth from across the three territories made up male and female Team North rosters.
“It was really exciting to see the females come away with a sixth place finish, which is the highest they’ve ever finished before … so it’s really, really inspiring and great for them,” said Beth Hudson, events manager for Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT.
Team North’s male team beat Team Ontario in its first game and finished in seventh place overall. There were nine teams competing in both the male and female divisions.
“We’re very unique in that … half of our team plays at home in small communities of 100 or 200 people scattered across the North,” said Hudson, noting it can be hard for the athletes – and especially for the female players – to get ice time throughout the year.
“Then, on the flip side, we have about half of our team playing down south because there is no league in the North that is at the level they need to be to compete at this tournament.
“We really bring together kids from all sorts of backgrounds and all sorts of locations, and try to get them gelling as teams and ready to compete.
“Every year they blow us away with how prepared they come in, how quickly they’re able to bond, and the effort that they put forth. It’s just amazing,” she said.
Two NWT athletes received individual awards: Liam Tereposky was named male goalie of the tournament, while Kyra McDonald was named female forward of the tournament.
Team North Female also took home the most sportsmanlike team title.
Athletes from the Yukon and Nunavut received the female and male leadership awards.
“There’s not a lot of other contingents that can say they had that much representation in recognizing the individual efforts put forward,” said Hudson, noting the championships represent the highest level of competition for Indigenous hockey players in the country.
“So we’re just so incredibly proud of the kids this year.
“I think every year with these kids is always so inspiring, just to see them overcome the barriers they have in front of them.
Sweat lodge ceremony
Team North prepared by heading to Whitehorse a few days early to host a training camp for the players.
In addition to twice-daily practices, both the male and female teams also participated in a sweat lodge ceremony.
“It gave them something they’ve never experienced before,” Hudson said. “They were ready to go into this tournament feeling proud of themselves and proud of their culture.
“And then the spirit stick was gifted to us by our Elder that actually contained ashes from the sacred fire that helped to produce that ceremony.
“That tied back to a lot of the teachings that the Elders had given us.”