Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

DANCING UP A STORM – The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers lead the teams onto the ice at the start of the opening ceremonies of the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament at Takhini Arena in Whitehorse Friday.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

MARVELLOUS HOCKEY MOM – The 2024 Jean Gleason Memorial Hockey Mom Award recipient was Jeneane Tashoots from Iskut-Tahltan Nation, seen here with Gleason’s grandsons, Josh and Brayden Gleason.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

FERENCE FACE-OFF – Former NHL defenceman Andrew Ference dropped the ceremonial puck.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

CONTRAST IN AGE – Dakhká Khwaán Dancer Gary Sidney-Johnson with Annaleia Johnson.

Yukon Native Hockey Tourney features amazing opening ceremony

The 44th Kilrich Building Centres Yukon Native Hockey Tournament is in the books.

By Morris Prokop on March 25, 2024

The 44th Kilrich Building Centres Yukon Native Hockey Tournament is in the books.

The tournament ran from Thursday to Sunday at Takhini Arena and the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse. It culminated in the finals Sunday at Takhini Arena.

There were 56 teams in total, including 40 adult teams and 16 youth teams. 31 were from Yukon communities; 14 came from B.C. and 11 hailed from the Northwest Territories.

The opening ceremony took place Friday at Takhini Arena.

The Dakhká Khwaán Dancers led the hockey teams on to the ice to open the ceremony.

Following a few speeches, Minister Jeanie McLean presented the 2024 Harry Allen “Samay Thia” Memorial Leadership Award to Elder Franklin Roberts from Selkirk First Nation.

“Throughout his lifetime, Franklin has been a tireless advocate for sports and recreation in his community,” related McLean.

Roberts said “hockey has been a big part of my life.”

He played in the tournament “way back when it first started in the 80’s.

“I’m happy to be here today.”

Roberts added, “Good luck to my home team. I hope you bring the trophy home.”

The 2024 Jean Gleason Memorial Hockey Mom Award recipient was Jeneane Tashoots from Iskut-Tahltan Nation.

McLean also presented a huge cheque for $25,000 to the Yukon Native Hockey Association from the Yukon government. McLean said the money was intended to offset the cost of the ice fees incurred during the tournament.

“Jeneane exemplifies the essence of a hockey mom,” said McLean, who cited Tashoots’ “unwavering commitment” to the game of hockey.

“With a nurturing spirit and dedication to the game, Jeneane has cultivated a team environment that fosters sportsmanship and loyalty.”

Former Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference was on hand to drop the ceremonial puck. Ference had a message for the players.

“Soak it up. Play hard, play with passion and make sure you walk away from this tournament with a new friend and new friendships on other teams as well.

“This is what it’s all about. This is incredibly special.”

Dawson Brinkman, a right wing with the Dawson City Wolfpack, got his picture taken with Ference.

Brinkman, 15, was playing in the tournament for the first time.

“It’s pretty cool.”

When asked what the best thing about the tourney was so far, Brickman simply replied, “Hockey.”

Yukon First Nations Hockey Association President Michelle Dawson-Beattie explained what the opening ceremony meant to her.

“It means a lot just to see how many people are here and how much the tournament means to them. It goes to show that it’s a lot more than about hockey; celebrating who we are as Indigenous people.

“Community is such a huge deal. Without this community, this would not be possible. To the players, to the refs, to the fans, to the families, to the volunteers, the coordinators, our timekeepers, it takes a whole community to pull this off.”

Dawson-Beattie acknowledged that the tournament is like a reunion.

“There’s people I don’t see all throughout the year and only see them here at the tournament, so it’s pretty great.”

Dawson-Beattie added a thank you to the sponsors, the board, and the coordinators, Karee Vallevand and Tanya Hope.

“They do an amazing job. They make me look good.”

Dawson-Beattie said she’s been helping organize the tourney for six or seven years.

“You think you’ve got a handle on it and then something new happens.”

Recent changes include adding the women’s division last year, as well as an extra day. In addition, the Jamboree and A divisions have been split up.

“Just when you think you can get comfortable, things change,” related Dawson-Beattie.

The women’s division increased from five to six teams this year.

“It just shows the increase in popularity.”

Dawson-Beattie added, “Hope everybody has a great weekend and plays safe.”

The division winners were as follows:

A Division: LJ’s Sabres.

B Division: K&D Outlaws

C Division: Kwanlin Dün Predators

Women’s Division: YT Cougars

Oldtimers Division: CAFN Bruins

Youth Division: Fort Nelson Bears

Jamboree A Division: North Yukon Eagles

Jamboree B Division: JMB Thunder

The Star will have more on the tournament this week.

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