Missanabie Cree hosts fundraiser for youth hockey team

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All proceeds from Marconi’s Pub Night go to Missanabie Maskwa as he prepares to compete in the upcoming Little NHL Tournament

A hockey-themed pub night at the Marconi Cultural Event Center on Thursday night aims to raise money for the Missanabie Cree First Nation as they prepare to ice a team at an upcoming Indigenous youth hockey tournament .

The Missanabie Maskwa first made their debut in the Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the tournament to be canceled for the next three years. Coach Dominic Fletcher is now in the process of assembling a team for the 2023 edition of the All-Ontario Tournament, which will be held in Mississauga, Ont. in March.

“The costs are excessive, especially at this time of year and during March Break,” Fletcher said, speaking to SooToday Wednesday. “Going to live in Toronto for four days, and food and gas, it’s very overwhelming. We see that.”

Fletcher is trying to build the team from scratch after being given the go-ahead by Cree leaders in Missanabie to form a hockey team in 2018.

The Missanabie Maskwa had only three registered community members for the team in its first year – smaller NHL teams routinely use players from other communities to round out the team if they are smaller players – but that number grew to 11 registered squad members for the 2020 squad before COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the tournament.

Fletcher has already issued a call for players for the Little NHL Tournament in 2024, looking to bring together multiple teams across a number of different age categories.

“We’re trying to grow our membership by participating in the Little NHL because it brings a lot of culture and a really, really good vibe,” Fletcher said. “I want to see my community, I want to see more people there.”

Fletcher is also trying to grow the team culturally by further integrating the language of his community into future small NHL teams.

“We have someone trying to translate our entire grassroots hockey team into the Cree language so we can encourage our coaches to use those terms,” he said. “When you get a bunch of kids four to five [years of age] and they show up in hockey, you say one word, then you teach them another word, and the next thing you know, after 10 years, they’ve learned a few more words.

The Little NHL has grown exponentially since hosting 17 hockey teams and some 200 players in its inaugural tournament in 1971; its last tournament in 2018 saw over 200 teams and approximately 3,000 players from across the province participate.

Fletcher, who participated in the Little NHL for years as a pick-up player for other First Nations, says he now wants to pass on the experience of playing in the tournament to future generations of First Nations people. Missanabie Cree.

“Believe me, if you’ve ever been to a tournament, you can see a whole family crammed into a hotel room. But they’re all happy,” Fletcher said. “A lot of communities are so remote that it’s their vacation. It’s the only thing they remember.

“Little NHL is a very, very good experience, and I think it should be shared.”

The Missanabie Maskwa Hockey Pub will feature live music by The Jade Monkeys and a cash bar at the Marconi Cultural Event Center (450 Albert St. W) from 9 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Team jerseys will also be available at the purchase as part of the fundraising event. Donations will also be accepted.

Attendees are encouraged to wear their favorite hockey jersey to pub night.

Tickets for the Missanabie Maskwa fundraiser are $22.23 and can be purchased online through eventbrite, with all proceeds going to the hockey team.

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