This article was written by the Chisasibi Minor Hockey and Broomball Committee, a group of parents and volunteers who try to help minor atheletes achieve their goals both inside and outside the community.
There’s a lot of Chisasibi kids out there working hard to fufill their hockey dreams. The road for our children is not without pitfalls and all kinds of other obstacles. Our kids need to develop a strong sense of “survival” in the competitive sports world, where only 1 per cent of all Canadian minor league hockey players will eventually make it to the NHL.
But all our kids have the right to dream about it. Like they say, “If you have it in you to dream, you have it in you to succeed.”
So our committee would like to make special mention of our local young atheletes who are trying hard somewhere in the “south” to fufill their goals.
Unfortunately, the Cree Nation cannot YET provide for these young atheletes at the level of competition they are working at. So they have to leave home… They have to move to cities, sometimes by themselves, sometimes with their parents.
And often our boys have to deal with “cultural” and “language barriers,” homesickness and outright racism, just to name a few of the obstacles. Our kids have the talent, but they face a harder road than other youngsters. That makes their successes all the more important.
A new rising star is Isaac Swallow, 18, who was recently drafted to the Junior “A” Rouyn Capitals. Isaac was spotted by the Capitals while playing in the Val d’Or tournament. When they saw him play, they drafted him on the spot.
Isaac has the perfect physique for the game. He’s six feet tall and a talented player. But he was shy and not at his top level of physical fitness. So our committee raised funds to buy him a physical training program. The Rouyn team noticed a big improvement and now Isaac is a big contender on the team.
His brother, George Swallow, 17, is another story. Everyone at home knew he was good. But at the recent Tourney in Chisasibi over the holidays, George didn’t play that well. And after one of the games, some small boys came up to him and said how disappointed they were. Those young kids really looked up to him and were sad he didn’t shine the way they knew he could.
Well, Geroge was really affected by that. He was determined not to let the kids down. He was determined to get back in shape. So every day, he trained himself. All alone, running every day. And then out of the blue the Rouyn “A” team called. They had room for one more player. George was flown down by the committee to try out for the last spot. He made the cut.
It’s like a dream for George and Isaac. And it wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for people like Clarence and Barbara Snowboy. The Snowboys, living in Rouyn while Clarence goes to university, took the two boys in. They drive them everywhere, help look for schools, talk with their coach and give them all the support of a Cree family environment. And they’ve got five kids of their own!
In other news… “Junior Snowboy,” the son of Clarence and Barbara, is playing in the MAGH hockey program (a development program for mosquito hockey players). His older brother Roland, 12, is also playing for a “Class B” pee-wee team.
In North Bay, Ontario, Louie House, 17, is living with a family from Chisasibi, pursuing his education at Obijouwan School and playing for a Midget AA team.
In Timmins, Wayne Bobbish started his season in a pee-wee AA team, but recently told his parents that he wanted to change teams because the heavy competitive pressure of his current team is killing his joy of the game.
In Kanata, near Ottawa, our 10 year-old Sean Langer-Sam is going to school, living with his father, while his mother helps support the family all the way from Chisasibi. Sean is playing for the atom AA Kanata Blazers and shows strong defensive skills and character.
Eric Snowboy and Matthew Sam, after a long journey of tryouts, made the “Quebec First Nations pee-wee Hockey Team,” made up of Native players from Chisasibi, Mistissini, Waswanipi, Kahnawake and Pointe Bleue. After just practising together one week, the team made it to the finals in a recent class BB tourney in Jonquiere.
The team lost their first game 5-0, but then went on to win all of their games until the finals where they had to concede victory to the Nationals of La Baie in a 4-1 score.
The boys had to witness unnecessary discrimination and misconduct during the finals, which might have affected their play. But that’s the reality they have to face, so hopefully we’ll think of ways to make them better prepared for that kind of thing next time.
We believe that every child has the right to a dream! And that’s why we want to thank the parents, friends and guardian angels of our kids. These generous and dedicated Cree families who help our kids are a big asset, especially when they have to adapt to city life. A child can overcome any obstacles as long as they know who they are and have the support of those around them.
At the end of the season, some will stay on with their teams, while others will come home for a variety of reasons. But we have to keep in perspective one important thing. No matter the size of a child’s accomplishment, as long as he/she keeps busy trying to achieve their dream, they will be a winner. They will be happy. And they will be good at whatever they chose to do in life.