By Sam Laskaris
MISSISSAUGA – Like many other Ontario couples, Anne and Dave Headrick have talked about taking their family to Florida for a March Break vacation.
But that has yet to happen.
For the past 15 years, the Garden River First Nation couple have found themselves staying in the province and attending the Little Native Hockey League (Little NHL) tournament instead.
Having five hockey playing children who have always been keen to participate in the annual tournament has put a kibosh on any serious thoughts of a March Break in Florida.
“The kids really like playing for their community with all their Native friends,” said Dave Headrick.
This year’s Little NHL, the 46th annual tournament, began Monday and continues until Thursday, March 16, in Mississauga. A record 204 youth teams from across the province are participating.
The two eldest Headrick children are no longer eligible to play in the Little NHL. Instead they are competing at a rather elite level.
Owen, a 19-year-old defenceman, is a member of the Pennsylvania-based Erie Otters, who participate in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He joined the Otters in January, after deciding to leave the Michigan-based Lake Superior State Lakers, the NCAA Division 1 squad he had suited up for during the previous one and a half seasons.
Meanwhile, Jana Headrick, who also plays defence, recently completed her first season with the University of Toronto women’s squad.
The three younger Headrick children, however, are all participating in this year’s Little NHL.
Nathan, 14, is playing defence with the Batchewana Attack Bantam club. Though she is Peewee-aged, 12-year-old Mya has moved up a category and is playing centre for the Batchewana Bantam girls’ squad. And 9-year-old Evan has also jumped up a division, from his Novice ranks to play for the Batchewana Atom boys’ team.
Anne Headrick said co-ordinating her family’s Little NHL schedule this year has been a little less hectic.
“Now with the three it’s a lot easier,” she said. “I know where my head is most of the time.”
This also marks the first time in 15 years that Dave Headrick has not coached a team in the tournament. Since he was also interested in attending some matches of his two eldest at this time, he did not commit to coaching a Little NHL entry this year.
Dave Headrick estimates that between his five children that he and his wife attend about 200 hockey games per year. But one thing he hasn’t done is sat down to figure out the mileage the family racks up travelling to games and tournaments.
“I’m afraid to add it up,” he said.
Headrick added one recent weekend he did cover 2,700 kilometres to watch his children in action. That weekend including trips to Guelph, London, Ottawa and Kingston.
Fortunately, both of the Headrick parents have somewhat flexible jobs allowing them to attend their share of games.
For the past 18 years, Dave Headrick has worked as a maintenance planner at Brookfield Place in Sault Ste. Marie. His wife works at the Garden River First Nation band office as its housing manager.
The couple is relishing every minute of its busy hockey lifestyle.
“Our kids only have so long to play,” Dave Headrick said. “It’s amazing how fast they grow up.”