Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

ENTERING THE ARENA – Players and coaches of the 18 teams participating in the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship enter Takhini Arena, led by the Dakká Kwáan Dancers, not shown, during the opening cermonies on Tuesday.

NAHC holds tournament opening ceremony

The banging of the drums came first then the singing of the Dakká Kwáan Dancers.

By John Tonin on May 8, 2019

The banging of the drums came first then the singing of the Dakká Kwáan Dancers. As they began to move towards the Takhini Arena centre ice the competing teams of the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Champion followed.

The drums were loud and the crowd enthusiastic as they watched their friends or their children step onto their ice, not in their hockey equipment, but in their province or territories’ colours, while also carrying their respective flags.

Team North and Team Saskatchewan having to play after the ceremony stood on their respective benches banging their sticks against the boards adding to the loud atmosphere.

The players walking across the ice were joking with their teammates as they waved to the crowd and took pictures and videos of their surroundings.

Once the players had crossed the ice they found their seats in a crowded Takhini Arena. All in attendance heard welcome prayers and words from Peter Johnston, Jeanie Dendys, Dan Curtis and Michelle Dawson-Beattie to name a few.

“Welcome to the Yukon,” said Dendys, the Yukon Minister of Tourism to the crowd. “I’m so honoured to welcome all of you here … I want to just tell you how much this tournament means to all of us. This was a long dream of many, many hockey moms. I want to hold my hands up to all the women behind the scenes. To all your moms!”

Johnston, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations spoke to the skill level of the athletes.

“I just want to say on behalf of the Council of Yukon First Nations it’s a complete honour to be a supporter of the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship,” said Johnston. “But to see the level of talent that is in the arena tonight is quite the spectacle.

“We have the best Indigenous athletes across the country in one room. It’s an honour to be amongst you all.”

Mayor Dan Curtis spoke about how it is a privilege to have all these people here in Whitehorse and he hopes they come back to “spend more time with us”.

Chair of the Host Committee and president of the Yukon Aboriginal Hockey Association, Michelle Dawson-Beattie said it was her pleasure to finally welcome everyone to Whitehorse.

“Those who came before me on the board of directors shared a big dream years ago of one day hosting this tournament here,” said Dawson-Beattie. “… After 42 years of growing our Yukon Native Hockey Tournament to what it is today the largest and long standing First Nations hockey tournament North of 60. We like to think we know a thing or two about showcasing First Nation and Indigenous hockey talent here in the Yukon.

“We love to bring people and communities together in a good way. We proudly champion the virtues of fair-play, friendship, and skill development for younger players. We are honoured to share our First Nations traditions and who we are as Indigenous people in the way we do things during our tournaments.”

Once the speeches were done the captains of Team North, Samantha McLeod and Team Saskatchewan, Story Navrot, were called to centre ice for a ceremonial face off with Johnston and Dawson-Beattie.

The ceremony came to a close and there was only one thing left and that was to play hockey.

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