Think for a moment about December, when Quebec’s Cree gather in Val d’Or for a hockey tournament that represents the Cree Nation’s largest gathering of the year.
Now imagine a hockey tournament that not only brings together Quebec’s Cree, but thousands of members of First Nations from across Canada.
Now imagine hockey teams with players ranging from 8 to 18 years age taking part in the tournament; over one hundred teams, from every corner of the country, ready to face off against each other to determine which are the best Aboriginal hockey teams and who are the best players in the country.
That is the dream of Christian Flamand, a member of the Atikamekw First Nation from la Tuque, Quebec. Flamand has, for many years, organized an annual hockey tournament in La Tuque, involving First Nations minor hockey teams from across Eastern Quebec.
Flamand is now working actively to bring to life the “Tournoi des Nations” or “Tournament of Nations”. According to Flamand, the Tournament of Nations would provide an opportunity for Aboriginal hockey players and teams to come together, showcase their skills and further the development of the game in First Nations communities, particularly those which are more geographically isolated or lack a strong hockey infrastructure.
“There is a gap between midget and junior hockey, and no organization exists to help young Aboriginal players make the next step,” said Flamand. “The Tournament of Nations provides an opportunity for young Native hockey players to demonstrate their skills to scouts who may not otherwise see them play. The tournament would also become an important event on the hockey calendar for younger players and enable players who don’t have a regular team to play on to get on the ice with other Aboriginal youth.”
Flamand and his staff recently visited Quebec City, where he hopes the Tournament’s inaugural edition will take place in February or March 2013. Negotiations are underway with the management of the Colisee Pepsi, which seats over 15,000 and is the current home of the QMJHL Quebec Remparts and the annual Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. If negotiations are successful, the 2013 Tournament of Nations would feature between 90 – 100 teams from all levels of minor hockey including Tyke, Atom, Novice, Pee Wee and Midget. As many as twenty additional teams may also be involved to play exhibition matches against Quebec City area club teams.
Flamand also plans on seeking the cooperation of Hockey Quebec and Hockey Canada with the aim of making the Tournament of Nations a sanctioned event.
“Every hockey nation has a national hockey team. Team Canada is put together to play in international tournaments,” explained Flamand. “Aboriginals in Canada also want to play at a high level. We want to have partners like Hockey Canada involved in the Tournament of Nations. There is a need and desire to build a national hockey team for Aboriginals. The Tournament of Tournaments is a step in that direction.”