Fruitvale’s Lindsay Swanson and Trail’s Riley Brandt embraced their Métis heritage, and, as a result, had their hockey season’s extended after both were selected to play for Team B.C. in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship (NAHC) in Kahnawake, Que. Apr. 27 to May 4.
The two were selected for their respective squads in a weekend of tryouts Apr. 5-7 in Williams Lake.
Swanson, a 17-year-old defenceman, played with the Midget AAA Kootenay Wildcats this season, and is making her first trip to the Nationals for Team B.C.
The 16-year-old Brandt laced them up with the Beaver Valley Nitehawks this season and is making his second foray into the event, after skating with Team B.C. at last year’s NAHC in Saskatoon.
The NAHC is a 45 game tournament comprised of 16 male and female teams from across Canada, that provides a forum for elite Bantam and Midget aged players of First Nations, Inuit, or Métis descent.
Riley’s father Shawn also attended the tournament and was impressed with the organization and the cultural significance attached to the week’s events.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Brandt. “We hadn’t been too much into our cultural heritage until experiencing that.”
Last year’s tournament also featured guest speaker Calgary Flame Rene Bourque at the banquet who spoke about what it was like to be a First Nations player in the NHL and the challenges they face, said Brandt.
But most of all the NAHC is about fostering cultural unity and pride and celebrating the athletic abilities of Aboriginal young players from across the country.
“He (Riley) loves it,” said Brandt. “He gets to meet so many people and so many kids and form relationships with kids from around the province, so it’s kind of cool.”
The tournament is also another opportunity for talented young players to be earmarked by junior or university scouts, with many junior A caliber players skating in the tournament.
Quebec’s EDN teams will compete, as will squads from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
Also taking part will be Team Atlantic and Team North. The former can include players from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland while the latter will feature players from the country’s three territories, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The long-term vision for the NAHC is to establish a competitive structure that will serve as the impetus for grassroots and regional Aboriginal hockey development.