By Sam Laskaris
MISSISSAUGA—The Moose Cree First Nation has been awarded the opportunity to try to improve upon its record-breaking successes of this year’s Little Native Hockey League tournament.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the First Nation in northern Ontario would be hosting the popular youth hockey event, more commonly referred to as the Little NHL, once again in 2018.
The Moose Cree First Nation served as the host for this year’s event, even though it was staged in Mississauga.
A record 204 clubs participated in this year’s tournament, which was held on Mar. 12-16. Organizers from Moose Cree’s host committee also attracted a Little NHL record of $325,000 in sponsorships this year.
Little NHL officials had hoped to announce the host First Nation for the 2018 tourney either before or at this year’s event.
Last month, Little NHL president Debbie Debassige said the organization would need a bit more time before selecting a 2018 host. She had also said as many as four First Nations had expressed interest in serving as hosts.
Since she was aware of how smoothly plans were falling into place, Debassige said she was encouraging Moose Cree officials to bid for next year’s event during and even before the 2017 tourney.
“They were a really good committee to work with and they represented the north quite well,” Debassige said.
This marked the 46th year that the Little NHL has run. The event, first held in 1971 in Little Current, started off with a mere 17 clubs.
For the most part, Little NHL officials like to rotate the event around, allowing a different First Nation to host the tournament each year.
Moose Cree, however, will not become the first community to host the event in back-to-back years. Six Nations hosted both the 2013 and 2014 tournaments, which were also staged in Mississauga.
Since the event has grown so much, it can no longer be held in smaller communities, as it was for many of its early years.
Mississauga, located about a 20-minute drive west of Toronto, has been the home of the Little NHL in each of the past five years.
Organizers will now only award the event to a First Nation that will be capable of hosting in a city that has enough arenas and nearby hotels to accommodate the participants and their families.
Information on bid submissions is expected to be posted by the end of this month. Debassige believes communities will have until some point this December to apply to host the tournament in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
An announcement on the First Nations that has been awarded those events is expected next January.
Debassige is hoping to see representatives from those winning bids have an active role with Moose Cree organizers next year.
“We want them to collaborate with Moose Cree and have them around at next year’s Little NHL so they can see how things are run,” she said.
Dates for the 2018 Little NHL have been set. The tournament will run Mar. 11-15.