Curve Lake Hockey Teams participate in Little NHL tournament
Curve Lake teams continued to impress at the 41st Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament for First Nation youth in Sudbury last week.The Mississauga Ojibway First Nation were represented by five teams that participate in the provincial level event.The tykes, featuring 13 players mostly five and six-years-old, fell to Moose Cree of James Bay 8-3 in the A final and finished with a 6-1 record in a division of 18 teams. The team included two four-year-old players. The tykes won gold last year.
“We were a development team last year and we kept the core group together this year,” said assistant coach Jeff Jacobs. ``We had 11 from Curve Lake and it was a good experience for them. It was good for them to play together and with other First Nation players.``
The other four Curve Lake teams included novice (seven-eight), atom (nine-10), peewee (11-12) and bantam (13-14). There were 15 players on the novice squad, 14 each on atom and peewee and 10 on bantam.
Of the 66 players, 75% were from Curve Lake with the others from across the region. There were a record 125 teams in all and more than 2,000 players from tyke to midget. There was also a girls division and representation from the Alderville First Nation with five players. Some girls play on boys teams.
``It is pro-rated by population,`` said Jacobs, 34, who played in the tournament as a bantam. ``The smaller teams can pick up players while other larger groups, like Six Nations, are already set.``
It is a unique situation for teams like Curve Lake as they are put together exclusively for this event and don`t play as units in a league or minor association anywhere else. They are scattered about the area and play for other organizations like AAA, AA, AE, the Peterborough Minor Hockey Association or with units in the region like Lakefield, Otonabee, Ennismore, Warsaw, Douro and so on.
No one could say for certain how many years Curve Lake has been sending teams to this tournament but Jacobs estimated it has been the better part of the 41 years. He said that in the 1970s Curve Lake hosted the tournament in Peterborough which his late grandmother, Dorothy Jacobs, helped organize.
He also said with the current format, it was more than just about hockey.
``The focus is on sportsmanship, citizenship, education and respect as well,`` said Jacobs. ``Players get to represent their First Nations, play hockey and have fun. It is about athletics and participating in sports. They all play equally (time). There is a sense of pride and community and means something to us.”
Jacobs, whose sons Carter, six and Quinn, four, were on the tyke team (Nolan Jacobs was the other four-year-old), said it also meant a lot to be a player in it then coach years later. Jacobs played through the Lakefield minor system and for the OHA Junior C Chiefs for four years.
“I learned from my coaches and now we get a chance to coach the kids,” he said. “We can a pass a lot onto them.”
He was appreciative of all the support the teams received, including from local businesses, individuals, the community, CLFN’s recreation committee, Baagwaating and the Dreamcatcher Fund.
The tournament’s theme this year said it all.
It was Aambe Taage Maamwi, which means Let’s Play Together.
Next’s year event is in Mississauga.
By DALE CLIFFORD Examiner Sports Writer