Raymond Shanoush is excited about the prospects for the Cree Nation’s young hockey prospects. Shanoush is the president of the newly created Cree Hockey League that is taking its first shots across Eeyou Istchee.

“We’re just going to have exhibition games just to feel the ground,” Shanoush said in an interview. “Last March we talked about developing a minor hockey league in the Cree Nation. We first looked at the just the nine Cree communities. But when we spoke with the Abitibi-Temiskaming, they proposed to change our zones with Hockey Quebec. So all players fromWaskaganish, Eastmain, Wemindji, Chisasibi are in the Cree Nation zone.”

Meanwhile, Mistissini, Waswanipi, and Nemaska will be playing in the Chibougamau zone. There are only five communities along the coast for the new hockey league.

The categories are Novice, Atom, Pee-wee, Bantam and Midget. The leagues will be inclusive, too. “If there are white families in the region, their kids can play too,” Shanoush said.

“This year is a testing ground. We’re looking on how it’s going to go. Each community will do its part in fundraising to take care of the expenses. Why we’re doing this is that the Cree kids are really talented, they’re really good in hockey, that’s the only thing that’s big in the Cree Nation.” Shanoush promises to keep statistics for each player on an Internet site. “We’ll be able to keep track of the progress for each kid,” he said. “We want to put a system that will help the kids in the Cree tournaments. Kids aren’t recognized even if they’re very good players so through a league we’ll be able to promote the kids a lot better, and to develop and expose them to a higher level.”

Shanoush believes it will be better to start with a smaller zone because the distances are shorter.

The league will need to register 250 kids in order to have a double letter team in the Cree nation. “If we have our 250 this year, next year maybe a franchise will have a double letter so they can play at a higher level, that’s what were looking at. Cree tournaments enter one week before the tournament, but when you play Abitibi-Temiskaming you have to register at the beginning of the season.” Shanoush is excited for the kids. “I think it’s great for the kids they have something to look forward to every weekend,” he said. “The games will mean something and it’s not just a practice or tournament because you need to win the the game in order to become a champion.”