By Leslie Knibbs
SAGAMOK ANISHNAWBEK FIRST NATION—Eight family teams from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation laced up their skates in Massey, Ontario, for the 36th annual ‘Family Hockey Tournament’, held on March 3-4.
The Massey Arena accommodated scores of family and friends to watch games at rink side or in the comfort of the Sadowski Room on the level above to see their family and friends play with heart and memories at what has become a legendary hockey tournament.
The first tournament was in 1981 with members of the Jacobs and Solomon families organizing the event. Last year, tournament founders turned the reins over to other family members. Original organizers included Jackie and Diane Bob, Earl and Doris Abitong, as well as Lawrence and Alma Solomon. The current organizing committee includes Warren Owl, Samantha Solomon, Marsha Owl, Tiffany Abitong-Bell, Amanda Hardisty and Mike Abitong.
Two teams had three generations playing including Jackie Bob along with teammates including his son Jeremy Bob and his son Byron Owl on the Owl squad roster. Earl Abitong’s teammates included his son Casey Abitong and his grandson Carson, all playing for the Abitong family team. Following one of the Owl family games, 65-year-old Jackie Bob skated swiftly over to his daughter watching at rink side; he smiled showing no sign of fatigue.
“Not bad for an old guy,” he quipped with a smile.
To support the tournament, each team paid an entry fee of $400. Several fundraiser events helped support the tournament including a spaghetti dinner, several raffles, a Nish Taco lunch, and a bingo. During the tournament, volunteers ran the kitchen in the Sadowski Room cooking lunches for those attending. Each team did their own fundraising for jerseys and equipment needed. All proceeds from concession sales go to support the seven Little NHL teams from Sagamok.
All teams received trophies for participating; winners received a Championship Trophy. This year’s champions included the Bennett’s, the Francis Team, the Abitongs and the Makedabin Team. Other teams participating included the Toulouse Family, Eshkagogans, Jacobs, and the Owls. Organizer Marsha Owl credits the tireless work of volunteers for making this event a success. Plans are in the works for next year’s event as well as the 40th Anniversary to be held in 2021 according to Owl.