The Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) hosted two hockey camps last week.
The Center Ice Co-ed camp was held August 17-19.
A girls-only clinic was held August 21-22. Both camps were held at the Canada Games Center in Whitehorse.
Players aged five to 18 from across the country participated.
The Grand Chief of CPNY, Peter Johnston, was an organizer and an active participant in the camp.
“I just wanted to give everyone the opportunity to come and if there were any obstacles, we could also support families with financial assistance, thanks to Jordan’s Principle, which is very important to the First Peoples. Nations that are caught in this world where they cannot afford, let alone are discriminated against in the systems that are there for everyone. ”
(Jordan’s Principle ensures that First Nations children receive the services they need. Funding is administered by CYFN).
“Through sport, leadership training and the opportunity to participate, that was the goal of this camp – to give everyone a chance,” adds Johnston.
“We had great instructors. (Former NHL player) John Chabot and his son (Kyle), who also played high performance hockey.
“We also offered off-ice training.
Instructors John and Kyle Chabot, as well as trainer Mike Diabo, are all from the same region.
“We had three people from Kitigan Zibi (a reserve near Maniwaki, Quebec, which is home to the Anishinabeg First Nation, an Algonquin band) who came and participated around the camp because it is important to have instructors as well. First Nations, just to give them an opportunity too, ”says Johnston.
“We just wanted to be First Nations themed, but definitely not a First Nations camp. All of our instructors were First Nations. It was great to see that. We had a mixed balance of not only girls and boys, but also non-native people who were just excited that we were doing something.
“We had a great week, and I’m pretty happy it’s over now, because it was a lot of work and planning, and even just execution on a daily basis. But looking back, I’m glad we did. ”
Johnston explains how the camps came about.
“I am very passionate about hockey, and it just takes a lot of… you have to be motivated of course… hockey is huge here on the territory, and I was involved in the other First Nations camp which is organized in partnership with the First Nations Hockey Association and Northwestel. I used to work for Northwestel so I had a really good idea of the potential and the supply. The last two years, not to mention the aboriginal tournament, we haven’t been able to have any hockey. I asked the ladies from the Yukon Indian Hockey (Association) if they were going to camp, and they said no. So I said ‘do you want to partner with us? and they said ‘no the timing is not good for us’ so I was like’ perfect! We can go ahead and do it and we’re not stepping on anyone’s toes, ”said Johnston.
“The opportunity has arisen – it’s a need – she has prepared these kids for this weekend, as we begin development camps, or identification camps as they are called in minor hockey, on Sunday. .
“The kids who participated spent more than five days skating, twice a day, and once you feel a little better and prepared, a little bit of confidence, it bodes well for next year or so. next season. “
According to Johnston, the main funding for the camp came from the CYFN.
“We charged a fee… which gave us some equity back into the whole program. In the end, it was just for families … who needed support. There are families who cannot even afford to play hockey because of the cost, so we were able to equip them with full equipment.
“Last year, we brought 15 bags of equipment from Ottawa to the territory. I also partnered with Bauer Canada, which also offered quite a bit of equipment – brand new equipment. ”
Johnston emphasizes the inclusion of children from across the land.
“So I’ve been on this path for some time. It all kind of came together, and with the support of Jordan’s Principle, it allowed us to bring families … for this tournament which can now help pay for the hotel or the mileage to travel from Dawson (City )… Or wherever they come from. . We also had quite a few people from outside Whitehorse, which is obviously my main focus because I grew up in a community.
“We still want to expand our borders to include the entire territory – even northern British Columbia”
Travel and hotel costs for out-of-town children, including at least five from Old Crow, were covered by Jordan’s Principle funding. There were three different age groups, five to eight, nine to twelve, and 13 and over. These three groups followed one another according to a schedule, which gave them the opportunity to enjoy two ice creams per day.
They had training in the field, which allowed them to work on their agility and use different core muscles off the ice. Diabo, who runs a program called First Assist, walked the players through two different training sessions.
Lunch was also offered to the players.
Ottawa Senators strength and conditioning coach Chris Schwarz participated in a Zoom meeting with players on the importance of good nutrition, good sleep and what it takes to be a pro, and his daily experience working with the Senators. Based.
Brandon Montour, a Florida Panthers defenseman of Mohawk descent, also attended a Zoom meeting with attendees.
“They need to hear that you shouldn’t be eating potato chips and drinking soda and thinking you’re going to be awesome because you have to start building your foundation now,” says Johnston. “The message was always positive. Even Brandon. It was great to hear him talk about living a clean life without alcohol, without drugs, and how important it was for him to be successful. And if you want to be successful, you can’t have excuses and results. You can only have one or the other … he takes it very seriously and prepares accordingly, so that he can be his best every day. That’s what kids need to hear. “
Local hockey coach Ken Anderson also attended the camp.
CYFN employees Reg McGinty and Anna Lund also helped the children meet their various needs.
The Yukon First Nations Education Branch sent a few youth activity assistants to mentor the children.
Olivia Cook, of Mohawk origin, ran the girls’ clinic, with the help of John Chabot.
Chabot also presented signed jerseys from Chicago goaltender Marc-André Fleury, Canucks defensemen Brady Keeper, Brandon Montour and a signed t-shirt by Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux.
There were lots of other gifts, including a hockey bag, hoodies, t-shirts and jerseys.
“These are things the kids will remember,” says Johnston.
The great chief says he has seen significant progress on the part of the children in the camp.
“It’s amazing even to see kids over the past week, how much they can pick up and progress in such a short time if they are well trained and have the proper tools.
“Kids need to hear positive messages, so the idea was that we would influence these kids in some way, not just by giving them great exercises on the ice that they can use to improve their skills,” but also to enable them to develop their leadership. ”
Johnston says they plan to do another camp in the future.
“Next year, I can’t wait to do it again… maybe in partnership with a First Nations organization or a hockey association, but at least I think we’ll be doing a girls’ camp again, because no one else does, and I think there is a positive incentive to do so, ”says Johnston.
“I think there’s a need to provide a separate clinic… girls are different when they’re among their peers and their own gender… especially it’s a whole different world when it comes to girls hockey.
Johnston believes that camps like these can have a very positive impact on children.
“The basis of it all is to give children a break from their reality. Some of these children are still living very difficult lives. It’s not very fair to them that they grew up in – no matter what challenges their family has faced financially or socially. It is a reality that we still face today. ”
“If we can do more for young people and invest in them properly, the results will speak for themselves,” adds Johnston. “It was great, and I will do it again next year, no problem.”