June 24th, 2024

Piikani back on the ice with holiday hockey camp

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 3, 2023.

Piikani Nation Hockey Association photo Coaches work with young hockey players as the Piikani Nation Hockey Association, in partnership with the Tribal Ice Youth Hockey Program and Development hosted a three-day camp over the holidays.

Youth from the Piikani Nation in Brocket got to lace up their skates and take to the ice for the first time in a long time this holiday season.

The Piikani Nation Hockey Association in partnership with the Tribal Ice Youth Hockey Program and Development hosted a three-day camp to teach hockey skills to Indigenous youth. Kept off the ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the camp is the beginning of re-igniting opportunities for skaters.

“It was a three-day camp over the holidays, we wanted to put up a camp for our community. Throughout the COVID years our hockey was shut down, we haven’t been going onto the ice. They used the area for a kind of distress centre,” said Jason Plain Eagle, president of the Piikani Hockey Association. “The past couple of years we didn’t have ice, we didn’t have an association, things just got pushed to the side. This past year, September and October, I got together with a couple individuals in our communities and I said, ‘let’s start the association backup’.”

Working with Chad Chief Moon (Bare Shin Bone) from the Tribal Ice Youth Hockey Program, the Association worked to build a camp for youth to get back onto the ice. Running Dec. 27-29, the camp focused on teaching skills in puck control, skating, shooting, and agility.

“We decided to put up a hockey camp, we are a big hockey community, we have good players here,” said Plain Eagle. “Our main goal was to accommodate our children for hockey. Because that is what we want, equal opportunity for everybody. It is a good physical activity. A lot of it was skill development, power skating, puck handling, and teamwork. We had about 50 kids, our registrations were really low, our main goal was just to provide a good hockey camp for our community.”

Kept off the ice during the pandemic, the Association is looking to ramp up its hockey output for next year’s season.

“There are two Native Hockey tournaments in Alberta, one called Native Provincials and the other one is called Alberta Treaty Hockey Association. They are a goal that we look forward to at the end of the hockey year. These tournaments usually happen by April around Easter time. All the Native communities in Alberta get together and have a tournament with minor hockey,” said Plain Eagle. “Our main goal is to get hockey going again. We want to start up in the new year in September 2023. Enter leagues and get some games going in our community. Provide coaching camps, ref camps, all of that stuff. COVID shut us down, but we are gracious to get all these parents together and develop a good association.”

Coming together to create hockey for youth is one of the best gifts to give during the holiday season.

“Now we have the opportunity to bring hockey back. Our main goal was to provide some good hockey to the community and you know we have always been a real good hockey community,” said Plain Eagle. “Providing a good opportunity and getting the kids back into it. We have got to be optimistic.”

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