Whitehorse Daily Star

Image title

Photo by Dustin Cook

CHASING DREAMS – (Left) Former NHLer John Chabot chases the young Whitehorse Minor tyke players during a game Tuesday evening. (Right) Arron Asham eyes a young skater to catch during the NHL Indigenous Alumni Tour session.

First NHL Indigenous Alumni Tour visits Yukon

First NHL Indigenous Alumni Tour visits Yukon

By Dustin Cook on March 7, 2018

The first of its kind in the territory, the NHL Indigenous Alumni Tour is a chance for hockey greats to share their stories.

“I want to be able to tell that story here in the territory,” Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) Grand Chief Peter Johnston said. “That any kid could make it if they put their life and dream and dedication to that.”

Eight former NHL players are in the Yukon this week to share their stories and hardships and being real life examples that any dream is possible.

Organized by the CFYN, the inaugural hockey tour is visiting five communities in the territory and stopped in Whitehorse Tuesday evening to skate with the tyke and novice players in the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association.

The group of players was organized by John Chabot from Prince Edward Island who played nine years in the NHL.

Last year, a group made the trip up to Watson Lake and this year discussed with Johnston about doing something bigger.

“This year I was asked to see if we wanted to do something more in the Yukon, so taking that opportunity to the next level,” Johnston said. “And now it’s happening. It’s been about three months in the making and I’m very thankful for the support and partnerships, community and financial.”

The tour started Monday in Old Crow with the alumni players visiting the remote community. As one player put it, they were “treated like kings.”

Eleven-year NHL veteran and Stanley Cup champion with the Calgary Flames, Ric Nattress said the community loved the day of activities which included hockey drills on the outdoor ice surface and then floor hockey games inside.

“They just want to give their kids some hope and that’s what we wanted to give them,” he said before suiting up to take the ice in Whitehorse. “We wanted to let them know if you work hard enough or love something enough there’s always an opportunity and if you give that effort and that passion, you never know.

“Getting to interact with these communities, they have the same goals and dreams as everybody else – for the kids to have an opportunity. And I think that’s what we try to bring to the table and it’s a great opportunity for me to pass on a little knowledge.”

At Takhini Arena Tuesday evening, different groups of hockey teams had their chance to take the ice and learn from the best.

The NHL players, sporting jerseys with their numbers and NHL team logos, led skating drills and games including tag, where it was up to the legends to catch the up-and-coming speedsters.

They ended the sessions with mini games and the chance for the young players to speak with the veterans before the next group quickly jumped on the ice.

“There is a deeper meaning to the tour when the players tell them their story,” Johnston said. “The connection between meeting an NHL player is pretty awesome.”

For Nattress, he grew up raised by his single mother in Hamilton, Ont. Without a car, he said at the time he didn’t realize that it took unwavering support from his mother and the community to help him reach his dream.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my life. It takes a village,” he said. “Hockey’s been good to me so I think sport is a huge, huge deciding factor in kids’ futures. I think that team atmosphere is something that every kid needs and I think it brings families together.

“Sport to me is social skills, sport to me is promise, sport to me is hope and sport to me is opportunity and that’s what I try to give to the kids.”

Nattress said another big factor for him taking part in these initiatives is that his grandson is part Woodland Cree from the Whitefish Lake First Nation in Alberta. He said he wants to be a part of helping grow the younger generations in First Nations communities.

“He’s a big part of our life so his future is something that I really want to be a part of,” he said.

The other NHLers on the tour include Reggie Leach, his son Jamie Leach, goalie Jean-Sébastien Aubin, Arron Asham, Jason Simon and Laurie Boschman. The hockey tour of skills and drills with young skaters will continue today in Pelly Crossing before wrapping up in Teslin and Watson Lake Thursday and Friday.

Even with this tour still going on, Johnston said they already have commitment for 2019 and he said he hopes to mix it up and possibly add more communities including Dawson, Haines Junction and Ross River.

“This is about the younger generation,” he said. “It’s about giving back. This is an extraordinary event. Hockey is so huge in the territory especially when you get to the First Nations communities.”

Comments (1)

Up 0 Down 0

Great work Peter on Mar 8, 2018 at 2:03 am

Great work Peter

Wilf Carter

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.