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Kamloops to host 2025 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

Tk̓emlups te Secwepemc First Nations working with city as tourney returns to B.C. for 3rd time
Nate McIsaac captains Team B.C. at the 2022 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Nova Scotia. (Contributed)

By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

Rick Brant has reason to be excited about next year’s National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC).

Brant is the CEO of the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity & Recreation Council (I-SPARC), the governing body for Indigenous athletics and recreation in British Columbia.

I-SPARC oversees the selection of B.C. squads for the annual NAHC, which features elite Indigenous players from across the country, primarily ages 13 to 17.

Earlier this month it was announced that Tk̓emlups te Secwepemc (formerly the Kamloops Indian Band) will co-host the 2025 NAHC.

“It deepens the shared experience for all involved when an Indigenous community hosts such a prestigious Indigenous sporting event,” Brant said. “So, we are thrilled for Tk̓emlups te Secwepemc to be partnering with the city of Kamloops to deliver the 2025 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.”

The NAHC has been held annually since 2002. The tournament, however, was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2025 event will mark the third time it has been staged in British Columbia. The tourney was first held in the province in 2004 in Prince George. And then the 2017 event was held in the Cowichan Valley district in the province.

“It will be a special experience for our teams to compete for a national title in front of a home crowd,” Brant said.

Based on recent history, there’s a good chance both the British Columbia female and male squads could capture some hardware at the 2025 tournament. Both B.C. entrants ended up winning the bronze medal in their categories at this year’s NAHC, which concluded earlier this month in Grande Prairie, Alta.

The B.C. male program has enjoyed tremendous success in recent times at the national tournament. During the last 10 times the event it has been held, the B.C. male squad has won a medal every single tourney. That medal haul includes three golds, one silver and six bronze.

Besides this year, the B.C. female team also won the bronze at the 2022 tourney, which was held in the Nova Scotia community of Membertou.

The dates for the 2025 tournament have been set for May 5 to May 10. All matches will be staged at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre in Kamloops.

Joshua Gottfriedson, the acting chief of Tk̓emlups te Secwepemc, was pleased to hear the news of where the national tourney will be held next year.

“We are honored to welcome elite Indigenous hockey players from across Canada to our city,” he said. “This event not only showcases exceptional talent but also celebrates cultural unity and pride.”

Kamloops’ deputy mayor Bill Sarai said his city it excited to host next year’s event.

“This tournament highlights our relationship with Tk̓emlups te Secwepemc, whose unceded ancestral lands we occupy, alongside our dedicated community partners and volunteers,” he said.

“Welcoming Indigenous athletes, coaches, and families from diverse communities, we aim to amplify Indigenous voices and the beauty of the local Secwepemc culture and the culture of every athlete at the games.”

Lana Popham, B.C.’s minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, also welcomed the news of the 2025 NAHC.

“These championships are a great opportunity to bring benefits to the region by attracting visitors, fostering job creation and boosting revenue for local businesses,” she said. “I also commend the celebration of Indigenous culture as a prominent feature of these games. Truth and reconciliation is at the heart of our government’s work and a priority in BC’s sport sector.”

It remains to be seen how many squads will participate at the 2025 NAHC. The tournament traditionally features provincial, territorial or regional representatives.

The 2024 event in Grande Prairie featured 14 competing teams, seven female and seven male.

Ontario clubs ended up winning the gold medal in both categories.

Besides B.C., other squads that competed in both divisions, were from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Team Atlantic and Team Eastern Door and the North (Quebec).

Since 2017 the two champs of the NAHC are presented with the Turtle Island Cup, which was created by Carey Newman, a First Nations artist from Vancouver Island.

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