Thousands of hockey players and their supporters were in Winnipeg for the 34th Manitoba Indigenous Cultural Education Centre (MICEC) minor hockey tournament.

Sixty-eight teams from Indigenous communities all across the province showed up to the Hockey for All Centre for the three-day tournament, which wraps up on Sunday.

Dennis Daniels, MICEC’s executive director, says this year’s event is bigger than the last, as the tournament continues to build back up attendance to pre-pandemic levels.

“It develops a lot of stuff for the younger kids in the way of self-esteem, self-consciousness, self-worth,” Daniels said.

“I saw a lot of kids going on to better things and they with careers and all that.… Some of them even made it into AAA hockey and junior hockey and some of them even made it to the NHL.”

It was hard to move around the packed arena at noon on Sunday as fans came to cheer for their teams.

Kids wearing hockey gear skating on an ice rink while their teammates watch from the bench.
The Minegoziibe Warriors faced the Norway House’s green team in the semi-finals of the U9 bracket. Coach Harley Chartrand said the tournament ‘builds a sense of community.’ (Prabhjot Lotey/CBC)

On one rink, the Minegoziibe Warriors faced the Norway House North Stars’ green team in the semi-finals of the U9 bracket.

“A goal was just scored for our team here, and then they scored a goal on us, and we scored another goal,” said Minegoziibe coach Harley Chartrand during the first couple minutes of the first period.

“Everybody was cheering and the fans are quite into it.”

Chartrand said he played in the tournament himself two decades ago, so he knows what that feels like for his kids now.

“They’re feeling pretty good you know. It builds a sense of community for our players to be here playing,” he said.

“It’s a good thing for us, right? It’s something for them to look up to and it’s memories being made every time we’re out here.”

‘Playing with new kids’

Just before the Warriors and the North Stars took the ice, organizers were handing out participation medals to U7 players from the Fisher River Hawks and Cross Lake Islanders.

Jeremy Wilson from Fisher River Cree Nation was there to support his daughter, Adaleith.

“It feels good to see my daughter be playing and learning more and playing with new kids. Yeah, she enjoys it, too. One of her favourite activities.”

When asked what she likes most about it, six-year-old Adaleith — with some parental coaching — said one thing:


Hockey players watching a game from the bench.
Cross Lake’s Black U18 team faced off against the Peguis Warriors White team on Sunday. (Prabhjot Lotey/CBC)

Across the arena on a different rink, one of Cross Lake’s U18 teams faced off against the Peguis Warriors White. Cross Lake had a commanding 2-0 lead, but Peguis managed to tie it in the third period.

Goalie Clinton Agecoutay, 15, said this was his first hockey tournament in Winnipeg, and that he was having fun even if he didn’t have any time on the ice yet.

Agecoutay said his team would feel good about being there “win or lose anyway.”

“My mom and my dad’s here, and most of my friends from Cross Lake support us playing,” he said.

“It’s a ghost town back home right now,” said Ursula Ross.

“This is our last tournament of the year and everybody comes out and everybody comes to watch and play … everyone looks forward to this.”

‘These boys don’t have enough ice time’

Ross was having a busy weekend, being on the coaching staff for more than a dozen teams from Cross Lake.

Two of her children were playing Sunday noon. Her daughter was also competing at the Stars Cup in the East End Arena this weekend, so she also had to make her way there after the game.

“There’s not that many tournaments up north … These boys don’t have enough ice time, so they’re doing a good job now because they’re so eager to play,” Ross said.

“It’s exciting. I’ve always followed them from squirts to midgets. It’s not just them I look after: I also look after 40 other boys, and all these kids.”

The tournament is sponsored by CBC.

Anna Parenteau, MICEC operations manager, said it feels nice to see all the youth having a good time.

The kids “are going home with memories that are going to last them a lifetime,” she said.

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