The Nicola Valley Junior Native Hockey Tournament made its triumphant post-pandemic restriction return last weekend, drawing in hundreds of B.C. players and parents across 20 teams for a weekend of competitive hockey action.
The annual tournament has taken place for 33 years, with the exception of the past three, and provides a space of young Indigenous athletes to engage with the sport of hockey in a competitive and fun way, an opportunity that organizers said has been hard to access in the past and the present.
“I’m quite a hardliner on the fact that society has ignored us for a long time, so there was no diversity or inclusion,” noted Bill Bose, who has helped organize the tournament for nearly four decades.
“It’s slowly getting a little different, but I still challenge you to go through the BCHL and WHL rosters and see how many natives are in there.”
The four day tournament saw nearly two dozen team join in on the action, with local teams and teams from the surrounding area. Nicola Valley teams picked up multiple podium finishes, including a first place finish for the U18 Nicola Valley Grizzlies, silver for the U15 Warriors, and bronze for the U13 warriors.
Despite minor ice issues and some rescheduled games, the spirit of participants weren’t dampened, as the high octane hockey action kept them busy between two arenas from March 23 to 26. Taking place between the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena (NVMA) and Lower Nicola’s Shulus Arena, Bose noted the tournament can be somewhat ‘hidden,’ but noted good turnout for the event’s post-COVID restriction return.
“Sometimes I think people don’t even know that it’s here, but it’s happening,” noted Bose.
“Coming from the last three years of COVID, we’re really been knocked down with people quitting and not coming back, so I’m amazed we’re doing as well as we are to start again. This is the first year back.”
Full results of the tournament can be found in the Nicola Valley Native Junior Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/8982403029/.