Hockey action took over the Nicola Valley this past weekend as the 54th annual Moccasin Hockey Tournament was hosted at the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena. 

On February 10-12, 15 teams met up in Merritt to compete at the annual hockey tournament, which is making its return from inactivity due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“It was exciting,” said Organizer Buzz Manuel. “Everybody was happy to be there, to gather, play hockey, and see old friends.”

The tournament had two categories; a competitive and a 40 and up masters tournament. There were eight teams who entered the competitive division while seven teams went into the masters bracket. 

In the end, the Nicola Valley Grizzlies claimed the top spot for the competitive tournament, beating the Ashcroft Cowboys, while the Kamloops 10k edged out the Williams Lake Longhorns to become first at the masters division. 

2023 Moccasin Tournament Masters Champions Kamloops 10k. Photo/Buzz Manuel

The tournament was hosted by local teams the Quilchena Braves and the Nicola Valley Grizzlies. As part of the event, there was a ceremony held to honour members of the Braves who have recently passed. 

Manuel explains that B.C. Indigenous communities have formed camaraderie through hockey. A series of hockey tournaments is hosted throughout the province which forms a sort of unofficial league.

“It’s a longstanding tradition,” said Manuel. “We have our own hockey community and we attend a number of tournaments in B.C.” 

Manuel stated that annual tournaments run throughout the calendar year, starting with one in Williams Lake followed by another in Merritt. The series of invitationals end in Vernon with a tournament during the Easter weekend.