It’s coming onto Christmas and Cecil Grinder’s got hockey on his brain.
That’s because on Friday, Dec. 15 the puck drops on the Sixth Annual Cariboo Canucks First Nations Hockey Tournament, an event Grinder organizes in Williams Lake each year.
“I love the tournament because it celebrates hockey and it gets our Native and non-Native people together,” Grinder told the Tribune.
Things kick of Friday morning at 6 a.m. with youth divisions, which encompass seven to nine year olds, 10-12 year olds, 13-15 year olds and 16-18 year olds. They will play all day Friday.
The adult divisions — competitive, recreation, masters, elders and women — will begin competing Friday night and through the rest of the weekend until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Both the elders’ and women’s divisions are open to non-Native teams, and since he opened up those categories more non-Natives have been signing up to play, Grinder said.
“Many people told me, ‘heh, it’s about time you did that’.”
In the competitive division there are teams such as the Vancouver Serpents, Vernon T-Birds, Kelmuc Rebels, Quilchena Braves and possibly the Ashcroft Cowboys, coming from out of the region to compete.
“Locally we will have teams from Sugar Cane, Alkali, my team the Cariboo Canucks and the Yellow Jackets, plus from Quesnel, Ulkatcho and Williams Lake,” Grinder said.
In the rec division there are six teams, which include two masters division teams competing with players that are 40 years old and over and in the elders division there are two teams — a Native and non-Native team.
Four teams are competing in the women’s division — Cariboo Stars, Tl’etinqox Hawks, Native Daughters and Canim Lake Kodiaks.
Grinder said there will be the usual 50/50 draws, puck tosses, raffles and vendors with all proceeds from the tournament going to help with travel costs for adult and youth division teams.
On Friday evening, Joel West & CO band will be performing in the Gibraltar Room for a concert and again on Saturday evening at the Williams Lake Sportsmen Association Club House on Bond Lake Road.
West hails from Burns Lake and is a member of the Lake Babine Nation.
He has recorded original songs and in 2016 won the opportunity to compete at the Merritt Rockin’ River Fest.
Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam told Lakes District News the nation could not be more proud of West.
“He is a meaningful ambassador to our LBN family and to the rest of the world in terms of personal development,” said Chief Adam. “We continue to encourage young people like Joel to reach for the stars and beyond. He never gives up.”
West credits music for saving his life and helping him recover from addictions.
Grinder said he encourages everyone to come watch some hockey and have fun, noting the cost for a day ticket is adults $10, students $8, elders $5 and for children under 12, it is free.
Grinder began playing hockey at his home community of Tl’etinqox when he was three years old.
“We always had an outdoor rink in our community,” he recalled.
“Ever since I can remember I’ve been on skates and all these years later, I still give ‘er.”
Tickets for the concert at the Gibraltar Room will be available at the door.
For tickets or information about the tournament dance, contact Grinder at 250-267-2189 or Melanie Johnny at 260-267-3911.
The dance is for people 19 years and over.