Fort William Chief Peter Collins, centre, and Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs, centre left, are looking for brighter futures for their communities through the upcoming Anemki Unity Winter Classic hockey tournament, which will be held March 13-16 at arenas in Fort William and Thunder Bay.

By Rick Garrick

THUNDER BAY – Fort William First Nation is looking to bring First Nation and non-First Nation hockey players together through the Anemki Unity Winter Classic hockey tournament during March break.

“What we’re trying to do is build a stronger relationship with our young people in our community and the young people of the City of Thunder Bay so that we understand each other and we can work together to improve the quality of life in our communities,” says Fort William Chief Peter Collins. “I think this is one step in the right direction to building positive relationships.”

The tournament is scheduled for March 13-16 at Fort William First Nation Arena and other arenas in Thunder Bay.

“When we look at racism in Thunder Bay and Fort William, we are hoping that this (tournament) starts that healing process and guides our communities in the same direction with our young people,” Collins says. “So they learn how to play with each other, they learn how to work with each other and they learn how to get along. The whole initiative of this (Anemki Unity) Winter Classic here right now is to bring our communities closer together.”

In addition to Tyke, Novice, Atom, Peewee and Midget divisions, the tournament will also include a girls division and an All Ages Special Olympic Basketball Games.

“We’re also including Special Olympic Basketball as part of this program,” Collins says. “We trying to make sure everybody gets the opportunity to have fun that week.”

Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs says he spoke about how Thunder Bay and Fort William are working together during his State of the City address on Dec. 19.

“It is about time that our communities got together and learned about each other,” Hobbs says. “I think this tournament is a great way to get the kids together and to learn about each other’s culture and about each other’s way of life so that we can be one inclusive community.”

Hobbs congratulated Fort William for organizing the tournament, noting that the City of Thunder Bay is 100 per cent in support of the tournament.

“I’m really encouraging the City of Thunder Bay to get involved in this tournament,” Hobbs says. “Even if you don’t enter a team, come out and watch the games and there’s going to be other cultural events. Learn about our neighbours and by the same token, Fort William First Nation can learn about us. We’ve been neighbours for over 150 years, and now we’re good friends and we want to keep building on that.”

Registration forms and information about the tournament are available online at: www.anemkiunity.com/winterclassic.

The tournament’s early bird registration deadline is Jan. 10 and the final registration deadline is Jan. 20.

“The whole point of the tournament is to bring First Nation communities and non-First Nation communities together during (March break),” says Bess Legarde, chair of the Anemki Unity Winter Classic. “(Games) are going to be at Fort William First Nation Arena and at City of Thunder Bay arenas, such as Delaney (Arena), the (Fort William) Gardens and possibly Port Arthur Arena, depending on how many people we have registered.”

The tournament rules call for teams to have 50 per cent First Nations or Metis players as well as 50 per cent non-First Nation players to be eligible for the tournament.