Plans for the next Little N.H.L tournament are well under way at Nipissing First Nation, and registrations are open for their annual golf fundraiser on August 21.
The planning committee has been at work since 2019, when Nipissing First Nation (NFN) were first designated as tournament organizers by the Little Native Hockey League (LNHL) executive to host the 2020 event.
Due to Covid-19, that year’s event was cancelled, and NFN and the LNHL cancelled the 2021 tournament as well.
That decision came in November 2020. At the time Nipissing Chief Scott McLeod explained in a press release that “our team worked so hard to host what would have been an incredible tournament.”
However, the hard work carries on, and NFN remains busy planning for March 2022, building on their previous work, and hopeful for a successful event.
“We’re planning it for when restrictions are lifted,” explained Melvin McLeod, who has been on the organizing committee since day one.
There are “well over 200 teams that sign up every year,” he added, and when NFN began organizing in 2019 for 2020, “we had registrations for over 250 teams.”
All teams are from Ontario, and all teams are comprised of First Nations youth.
Founded in 1971 the league was formed to give kids an opportunity to play hockey with others in a more organized way.
“A lot of kids who lived on reserves didn’t have access to organized hockey,” McLeod said, so the organizers invited “them to play in a tournament.”
The first tournament was held over Christmas break in 1971 in Little Current. Over 200 players took to the ice on 17 teams.
There are boys’ and girls’ divisions, ranging in age from five to seventeen—Tykes to Midgets.
NFN is the community host for the tournament, however, the event will be held in Mississauga.
“It’s gotten way to big for northern Ontario,” McLeod said. The organizing team considered hosting it regionally, but to produce an event of this size in the region would essentially require every ice surface from Verner to Bonfield.
“Probably between five and ten thousand people” come out for the event, so the move to Mississauga “seems to be the most suitable area for us.”
The tournament will play out at the Paramount Fine Foods Arena, which has four ice pads. Across the street, “not even a ten-minute walk,” is IceLand Arena, which has another four pads.
Plus, the league contracts rinks in the area. In total, McLeod explains, “we access sixteen ice pads for the four days we’re there.”
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of planning,” that goes into the tournament, McLeod said. Moreover, NFN plans to send around a dozen teams to the games and have been fundraising for the cause.
An annual golf tournament, the Nipissing First Nation Scramble, is one of the main fundraising vehicles. Entry fees are $125 per person, and the event sells out yearly, so those interested should not delay.
The fundraiser takes place at Osprey Links, Callander, on August 21. Registration is open now.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.