Yet another record-breaking year for Little NHL

MISSISSAUGA—With the theme of ‘Bettering our Youth in the Pursuit of Excellence,’ Little NHL 2018 is once again breaking records with more teams, more arenas and more community involvement than ever before.

Being hosted this March Break by Moose Cree First Nation and held again at arenas in Mississauga, Little NHL President Debbie Debassige, of M’Chigeeng, told The Expositor that it’s yet another banner year for the Little NHL with 209 teams, up five from last year’s record number of participants.

“The host is Moose Cree for the second consecutive year,” Ms. Debassige said. “They did such a good job last year that I asked them to consider doing it again.” After some deliberation and with the blessing of chief and council, Moose Cree agreed.

“We added another arena, so we now have 15 ice surfaces at five arenas,” Ms. Debassige noted, adding that they are all within 15 minutes’ driving distance from one another.

Something new at the Little NHL this year is the addition of a Team Ontario South tryout being held on Sunday, March 11 for both male and female teams. The teams will then go on to compete at the National Aboriginal Games. (Ontario has both a Team North and a Team South.)

This year, all of Manitoulin’s communities will be represented with teams at the Little NHL except for Sheshegwaning. However, Ms. Debassige noted, it’s looking very positive that Sheshegwaning will have a team in for next year.

Brenden Biederman, Little NHL 2018 coordinator for Moose Cree First Nation, said organizing one of the province’s largest hockey tournaments two years in a row has been a big challenge, but a fun one.

He listed the many hockey greats and celebrities who will be present at this year’s tournament, including the Noland family, Aundeck Omni Kaning’s own Reggie Leach, Fred Sasakamoose, Olympic gold medallists Becky Keller and Cheryl Pounder, Mrs. Universe 2015 Ashley Callingbull, Miss Teenage Canada 2017 Emma Morrison, Miss Teenage Canada 2018 Aleria McKay, Jonathan Cheechoo, Jacob Ardown from On the Bench and, as a special treat for the opening ceremonies, Logan Staats of The Launch fame will be on hand to perform a few songs.

And that’s not all; Mr. Biederman said Moose Cree has a big surprise in store for the opening ceremonies—one that’s sure to be a crowdpleaser.

He said that these celebrities will be mixing and mingling a lot more too. The organizers said that they don’t want their special guests to be limited to being behind a desk and their interactions with the players brief, asking them to be more of a presence with their junior fans.

Forty-four First Nations will be represented with teams while 88 communities, and counting, will have players as part of the Little NHL.

“I see that number continuing to climb,” Mr. Biederman said. “I don’t think anyone ever foresaw what this event has become.

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