Erin Denny is hoping to lead her hockey team to victory this week in Membertou. Denny, 16, is the captain for Team Atlantic in the female division at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
“This is really fast-paced hockey and just try to let the girls know that and prepare them,” the Grade 10 student from Eskasoni First Nation, N.S., said on Tuesday. “The girls are a lot stronger, a lot bigger. We need to be prepared for that.”
The national hockey competition, which began on May 6, is taking place at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre in Membertou, N.S. It’s the first time the NAHC is being held in a Mi’kmaw community.
Approximately 600 Indigenous players from across the country, both male and female, are taking part in the week-long competition. All athletes are bantam and midget-aged hockey players.
Team Atlantic for both male and female divisions are made up of players from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. New Brunswick has its own male and female teams for the NAHC.
Denny, who has played for Team Atlantic at the NAHC since 2016, said she was honoured when she was chosen as team captain for this year.
“I’m really glad that I can show those qualities to the girls and share my experiences and prepare them for what’s going on,” Denny said.
Hosting NAHC an economic benefit of $1.2-million
Gerard McPhee, co-chair of the host committee for the 2018 NAHC, estimates the event will have an economic impact of approximately $1.2-million locally.
“This is Membertou’s first national event in this facility and we wanted to blow the scales off and raise the bar a little bit,” McPhee said on Tuesday.
McPhee said the committee spent approximately $150,000 to host the week-long sporting event. The money went towards providing meals, water and transportation to the participants.
McPhee said one of the biggest challenges in organizing the event was arranging transportation for most of the teams between the Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Sydney, N.S.
Members of Team Manitoba were the only ones who were able to book flights from Winnipeg to Sydney, McPhee explained.
“So we had to have buses and cargo vans pick up all their gear and everything in Halifax and bring them here,” McPhee explained on Tuesday.
Team Atlantic has yet to win in NAHC
Team Atlantic in both male and female divisions have yet to win a game at this year’s NAHC. So far, both divisions have lost the first three games they have played in the tournament.
Team New Brunswick in both divisions has yet to win a game as well.
Sonny Kabatay, 15, from Membertou First Nation, N.S., says he’s grateful to be playing in the tournament for the first time in his home community. The Grade 9 student is also on this year’s draft list for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Hopefully, we can do really good in this tournament,” Kabatay said.
Ashton Paul, 18, is the captain for Team Atlantic in the male division. He said it’s his job to keep the team’s morale up during the week-long tournament.
“We can’t get down on ourselves. I mean, we lost the first game but that’s behind us,” Paul, who is also from Membertou First Nation, N.S. said. “We just got to play our game and take it a shift at a time.”
The semifinals begin on May 11. The championship games for both divisions take place on May 12.