Mistissini Senior Hockey & Broomball Tournament
The 25th edition of Mistissini’s Senior Hockey & Broomball Tournament took place January 12-15. A total of 18 hockey teams and eight broomball teams participated in the event.

After winning their respective pools and semi-final match-ups it was the Wemindji Ice Stars and the Waswanipi Eagles who met in the Women’s Broomball final. The Eagles repeated the shutout performance that they had against the Ice Stars on the tournament opening night, beating Wemindji in the final by a score of 2-0.

The Class C Hockey final was a battle of two Mistissini squads: the Beavers and the Ice Wolves. The two teams had met on the opening night of the tourney with the Ice Wolves topping the Beavers 6-2. However, the tables were turned in the Class C final as the Beavers got sweet revenge and the championship banner with 3-0 victory over the Ice Wolves.

Class B Hockey had the largest number of participating teams, at eight. The final brought together two undefeated teams – Pessamit Montagnais and the Whapmagoostui Predators. The two teams’ first meeting of the tourney settled nothing as they tied 4-4. In the final, it was Pessamit Montagnais that was victorious, as they defeated the Predators by a score of 4-2.

The main event of the tourney was the Class A Final, with the Mistissini Trappers returning to their familiar role as a Class A championship team with their 4-3 victory over the Waskaganish Renegades, upset the first place Waswanipi Chiefs in the semi-final to earn the right to face the Trappers.

Waskaganish Invitational Hockey & Broomball Tournament
The annual Waskaganish Invitational Hockey & Broomball Tournament took place at the Sarah Stephen Memorial Arena on the weekend of January 19-22. The tournament saw action from 17 hockey teams and eight broomball teams, participating in three categories: Open Hockey, Recreational Hockey and Open Broomball.

In the Open Hockey category, eight teams participated from across Eeyou Itschee, each playing three games in the qualifying round. The Nemaska Axemen and Waskaganish Wings each finished the round with perfect 3-0 records, followed by the Mistissini Trappers and Wemindji Wolves who each notched two victories.

In the Open Broomball category, the Waskaganish Starlites took home championship honours with a 1-0 victory over the Nemaska Capitals. The Starlites won on the strength of Marie Hester’s 2nd period goal – the lone tally in the game. In fact, the Starlites’ road to the title included three shutouts over their hometown rivals from Waskaganish and the Lac Simon Lakers in the preliminary round, and a 5-0 victory over Waskaganish in the championship round. The only time the Starlites gave up a goal was in a loss to the Wemindji Ice Stars early in the tournament.

In Recreational Hockey action, it was the Waskaganish Ex-Wings who were dominant in the preliminary round racking up 29 goals on their way to a perfect 3-0 record. But it was the Waskaganish Braves who would raise the championship banner following wins over Eastmain and the Waskaganish Rec Dawgs in the playoff round.

JBMHL Gala Nemaska Tournament
The James Bay Minor Hockey League held its gala tournament in Nemaska January 13-15.  Fourteen Novice, Atom and Bantam teams participated in the three-day event.

In the Novice category, the Eastmain Snipers spoiled the Waskaganish Renegades’ perfect record throughout the tournament by defeating the Renegades in the championship game by a score of 8-4.

Remember the name Deyon House. The Eastman Snipers youngster scored seven goals in the Novice final, including six consecutive goals to seal the victory for Eastmain. In fact, House was by far the most dominant player in the tournament, scoring an astounding 27 of the Snipers’ 31 goals during the five-game tourney.

In the Atom division, the Waskaganish Renegades needed two overtime victories over Chisasibi, including the winning goal by Ryan Lee Wadden in OT of the final to win the Atom championship. Wadden’s tournament winning goal was his third of the championship game and 12th of the tournament as he led all Atom scorers with 17 points.

In Bantam action, it was again another great weekend for the Waskaganish Renegades as they bounced back from a defeat in the first game of the division’s preliminary round to go undefeated the rest of the way, knocking off the Eastmain Snipers in a lopsided 5-0 victory in the Bantam final.

Wemindji Wolves’ Trent Georgekish was the tourney’s leading scorer in the Bantam division, tallying 9 goals and 5 assists in Wemindji’s four games. Of particular note was Georgekish’s heroic five-point performance against the Waskaganish Renegades during the Wolves’ sole playoff round game. Georgekish set up two 3rd period goals and scored a third in a span of 2:05 to draw the Wolves within one goal of the Renegades. However, Waskaganish would hang on to defeat the Wolves by a score of 7-6 to move on to the Bantam final.

Feds cut funding for Aboriginal Sports Circle
The Aboriginal Sports Circle (ASC), which has been largely inactive since early 2011, has had its federal funding cut off over reports of financial mismanagement and governance issues. The funding cutoff is expected to effectively kill the organization.

Launched in 1995, “as a national voice for Aboriginal sport in Canada, bringing together the interests of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people”, the ASC operated branches across Canada, and had coordinated major events such as the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship (NAHC) and the Aboriginal Sports Awards.

Reports of financial abuse and fraud led to the ASC ceasing operations in early 2011, placing events like the NAHC and the National Aboriginal Games, scheduled for 2014, in jeopardy.

According to documents obtained and published by Postmedia News, the ASC has been facing a number of financial and governance issues over the past four years.

“Preliminary findings of the audit raise serious concern about the viability of the ASC going forward.”

Sport Canada demanded the ASC undergo a “recipient compliance audit” for fiscal years 2009-10, saying future funding was contingent on satisfactory completion of the audit process. The ASC then hired an external consultant to help “develop a recovery plan to strengthen their organizational capacity”.

The audit did not go well, leading to all federal funding being cut off, with little chance of it resuming in the near future.

“It’s important to ensure taxpayers’ money is being spent properly,” said federal Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal in a Postmedia News report. “In this case it wasn’t being spent responsibly, so we will be looking for other ways to encourage sport participation among Aboriginal people.”

Alternative methods of managing ASC programs, such as the Aboriginal Coaching Strategy, have already been found, with organization of other major events “to be led by provincial/ territorial sports bodies”.

While ASC representatives did not provide details as to the specific nature of the organization’s financial woes, they did indicate that the problems originated at the “upper management level”.

Eastern Door & North teams likely to participate in 2012 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship
The 2012 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship (NAHC) is fast approaching, and with it the selection process for the Eastern Door & North team entries in the tournament. However, the process has been somewhat more complicated this year as funding for the Eastern Door & North was not sanctioned by Quebec First Nation chiefs.

“The problem here in Quebec is that the Quebec chiefs have taken away our mandate which we had for the last nine years,” said Eastern Door & North team organizer and assistant coach Kenny Kane. “Some of the chiefs did not want to fund the program, which is very expensive every year.”

Between the demise of the Aboriginal Sports Circle, due to alleged financial mismanagement, and the withholding of funding for the NAHC, it has meant that organizers like Kane have had to find creative solutions to political problems that threaten the existence of events that are supposed to provide opportunity for First Nations young people.

Kane, a Mohawk from the Kahnawake territory located just outside Montreal, has managed the Kahanawake Sports Complex for the last 24 years and has been involved in a number of First Nations sports events in the Mohawk territory and across the country.

“We are leaning towards becoming independent,” explained Kane in reference to management of the hockey team. “We will host a tryout camp here in Kahnawake, like we have in the past. We will invite as many hockey players as we can from the territory of Quebec, we will make a team and go to Saskatoon – with or without the sanction of Quebec’s chiefs.”

While Kane is clearly less interested in politics than he is in building strong Eastern Door & North hockey teams, he understands the political reality.

“We can do several things. To protect ourselves politically, we will get a resolution from the Mohawk council to recognize the team as Eastern Door & North, we will get it signed off on and we won’t need every chief in the province to sign off on it.”

While the political issues are not entirely resolved, Kane is highly confident that a schedule for tryouts will be formalized by mid-February.

“Our program is not new at all. It is proven, well-developed and very well-known,” said Kane. “So I am not worried about getting players to participate on a short notice.”

Tryouts for both the men’s and women’s teams will take place at the Kahnawake Sports Centre. Kane and his colleagues expect about 65 young hockey players, ranging in age from 15 to 18, at the men’s camp. Tryout camp will run three to four days, with two skates per day. Final player selections will be made on the last day of camp.

While it is not yet confirmed, Kane is hopeful that Cree Nation Bears Midget AA coach Steve Cheechoo will return as coach of the Eastern Door & North men’s team.

The NAHC takes place in Saskatoon from May 6-12.

Kapuskasing Flyers rebound from a disappointing Kiwanis Midget tourney
In the last Cree Hockey News & Notes, we reported on the Kapuskasing Flyers’ preparations to participate in the 47th edition of the Gatineau International Kiwanis Midget Tournament. After falling 6-1 in their opening game against the South Central Coyotes from Richmond Hill, Ontario, the Flyers rebounded to defeat the Fredericton Canadians 3-1 and the Cole Harbour (Nova Scotia) Wolfpack 2-1 to qualify for the championship. The Flyers faced yet another team from Down East, the Moncton Flyers, in the playoff Round of 16, where they were defeated 3-0 on three 3rd period goals.

The Flyers struggled in their return to league action, dropping a pair of games to the Sault Ste. Marie North Stars, but have since bounced back with four straight victories, including recent wins over Kirkland Lake and New Liskeard during which Braden and Cameron Etherington of Moosonee each racked up 5 points and Brennan Nesrallah, also of Moosonee, tallied 4 points.

James Bay Beavers
The James Bay Beavers Pee Wee CC squad will participate in the prestigious Quebec Peewee International Tournament starting February 9. The tournament, in its 53rd year, will take place at the Pepsi Colisee in Quebec City. The Beavers will be competing against teams from across Canada and around the world, including teams from the US, Finland, France, Italy and Australia.

Amos Forestiers
The Amos Forestiers hope to end the regular season on a high note as they face division leaders Collège Esther Blondin for back-to-back games on home ice, February 3-4. The Forestiers currently sit second in their division with 42 points in 39 games. Since returning from the holiday break, Waskaganish’s Alexander Hester has recorded 2 goals and 2 assists in eight games for the Forestiers.

Player Movement
Defenceman Silas Neeposh of Mistissini has left the Kahnawake Condors of the Quebec Junior AAA Hockey League to join the Temiscaming Titans of the Greater Metro Hockey League. Drafted as a 16-year-old by the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL, Neeposh was named Rookie Defensive Player of the Week in the QJAAAHL just prior to Christmas. Neeposh has yet to record a point in his first five games with the Titans.