The 20th-annual Keewatin Tribal Council (KTC) Tribal Days hockey tournament at the Thompson Regional Community Centre March 6-8 saw the Tataskweyak Blues take the senior division championship with a 7-6 victory over the York Landing Smurfs, while the Bunibonibee Cree Nation Devils captured the old-timers’ title with a 7-2 victory over Split Lake Cree.
The senior championship game saw the teams neck-and-neck with the Blues section of the arena cheering the loudest, helping propel their team to victory.
Victory was sweet for the Blues, who skated in memory of their friend, number 88, R.J. Osborne, who died in 2018.
Team captain Dustin Flett, and the rest of the Blues players, displayed the number 88 jersey in the post-game celebration.
“We represent his jersey every game,” he said. “We hang it up every game in our dressing room, bench, everywhere we go. This makes victory awesome.”
The first 20 minutes of the old-timers’ final saw the teams closely matched, but the game began to slip away from Split Lake as the Devils dominated later on.
Excited fans and families packed the stands to cheer on their favourite teams, while the players, infused with energy and determination, played rough and fast in hopes of winning the championship.
Steve Carnegie has been organizing the tournament for “20 long years,” but the event still makes him happy.
“The tournament started back in 2000,” he said. “It all began when the 11 associated communities of the Keewatin Tribal Council began challenging each other. One chief said to the other chief, ‘I have the best hockey team.’ KTC then got the ice rinks together and the people together, and here we are today 20 years later.”
Sometimes the games can get pretty rough, with rivalries and high-calibre hockey, explained Carnegie.
“But it’s just hockey,” he explained. “It’s a heat of the moment thing, and that’s just the way it is.
The 20th anniversary tournament went very well, said Carnegie.
“Every year we deal with things like teams not showing up, goalies missing, but I mean that’s expected and that’s just the way it goes,” he said. “When it comes to Sunday games, everybody wants to play on Sunday because half the teams go home [after being eliminated]. This is a great tournament. We bring in lots of economic benefit to the town. The hotels are always busy, the restaurants are always busy, and everybody goes home with groceries.”