An annual Christmas tradition continued this year as the Cariboo Canucks hockey club hosted its third annual First Nations hockey tournament.
Four divisions consisting of 16 teams from around the province — competitive, masters, recreation and women’s — made up the tournament, held late December at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex.
In the competitive final it was Prince George’s Big Guy Lake beating last year’s runner up and host of the division, the Cariboo Canucks, 5-2 to win the tournament’s first-place prize money of $3,000. In third place were the Kootenay Wolfpack.
Tournament organizer and Canucks member Cecil Grinder said the final game was tightly contested, and gave credit to the team’s two young netminders, Christian Stump and Matt Brennar.
“Christian played a phenomenal game against Big Guy Lake before the finals,” Grinder said. “A lot of these young players coming up, they’re awesome for the future.”
In the women’s division it was the Kamloops Dirtbags brining home the championship, while the local Cariboo Stars, finished second after a 3-2 loss in the final.
“Our women’s hockey, it’s picking up quite a bit with lots of our younger girls playing midget rep,” Grinder said. “A big thanks to them and a pat on the back for making this a success for our young women coming up.”
Meanwhile the Williams Lake Longhorns defeated the Alkali Renegades in the master’s division, while the Anaham Athabaskans upended the United Native Nations (Ulkatcho) to claim the recreation division crown.
“Overall it was a really good turnout,” Grinder said. “All the divisions were full and it was a successful tournament thanks to the volunteers that made everything run smoothly. Fan turnout was a big thing for our local people.”
The best fan awards, awarded to Rachel Hance and Jerry Elkins, came a result of the late Norman Alphonse, who won the award the first year of the tournament. Alphonse and his late brother, Rapheal Alphone, were paid tribune to in this year’s tournament program.
For Grinder and his community, however, the event is about much more than hockey.
“For all the stuff happening out west we’re trying to overcome that,” he said. “Graham West of Anahim Lake, he ran the United Native Nations team. We’re trying to empower our youth through this tournament and there were a lot of 14- or 15-year-old kids who would have wanted to play if they could.”
The following are awards handed out following the tournament:
• All-star forward – Cole Wezlowski – United Native Nations
• All-star forward – Tristan Handhart – United Native Nations
• All-star forward – Mitch Hunlin – Anaham Athabaskans
• All-star defence – Nathan Sam – Anaham Athabaskans
• MVP – Tyrone Seymour – Anaham Athabaskans
• All-star defence – Dave Archie – United Native Nations
• Best goalie – Laughlin Davies – Anaham Athabaskans
• All-star defence – Kasey Seymour – Kamloops Dirtbags
• All-star forward – Olivia Gindlon – Kamloops Dirtbags
• All-star defence – Squay Gottfriedson – Kamloops Dirtbags
• All-star goalie – Raylea Garland – Cariboo Stars
• MVP – Callissa Broomfield – Cariboo Stars
• All-star forward – Christine Dixon – Merritt Prowlers
• All-star forward – George Mack – Williams Lake Longhorns
• All-star forward – Kib Robbins – Alkali Renegades
• All-star defence – Alex Chelsea – Alkali Renegades
• All-star forward – Barry Dennis – Williams Lake Longhorns
• Best goalie – Frank Antoine – Williams Lake Longhorns
• All-star defence – Darrel Elkins – Williams Lake Bandits
• MVP – Dan Gottfriedson – Williams Lake Longhorns
• All-star forward – Ty Moses – Cariboo Canucks
• All-star defence – Dustin Erickson – Big Guy Lake
• All-star defence – Vince Kozuki – Cariboo Canucks
• All-star forward – Tyrell Turgeon – Big Guy Lake
• Best goalie – Allen Billy – Big Guy Lake
• MVP – Byron Sam – Big Guy Lake