Many of Canada's top Aboriginal teenage hockey players will converge upon a small Mohawk community in Quebec next spring to decide national bragging rights.
It was recently announced that Kahnawake, located just south of Montreal, will be hosting the 2013 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC).
The tournament will begin on Apr. 28 and run until May 4.
The NAHC has been held annually since 2002. The event features both female and male squads.
The majority of the participating players are 14-17 years old, as the tournament is open to bantam and midget players. Traditionally, however, the female clubs have been allowed to include some overage players on their rosters.
The last two NAHC were both staged in Saskatoon. Kahnawake previously hosted the tournament in 2006.
"It was a huge success when we had it here before," said Brianne Alfred, the co-ordinator of the 2013 NAHC. "And we're hoping for the same results."
Jeff Spencer, the chair of the National Aboriginal Hockey Program, said some other cities had expressed a bit of interest in hosting next year's tournament.
"At the end of the day though Kahnawake was the one that was ready to host it," he said.
Alfred has been involved in her share of previous tournaments. She represented the Quebec-based team called Eastern Door and the North (EDN) seven times, starting as a 13-year-old. Alfred won three NAHC medals as a player, including gold in 2005. She went on to serve as an assistant coach for the EDN girls' squad for two years, including in 2011 when the team won the silver medal.
Alfred is now in charge of the tournament, which in previous years has cost about $150,000 to run. Organizers of the 2013 NAHC will benefit from a generous sponsorship from the Nike N7 program, which supports sports ventures in Native American and Aboriginal communities across the United States and Canada. This is the second year of a two-year deal in which the Nike N7 program will provide the jerseys and socks for all of the competing players at the NAHC.
Alfred estimates it costs about $6,000 per team to outfit each squad with two jerseys (home and away) as well as two sets of socks to wear at the NAHC. "It's a big relief they stepped in to help out," she said of Nike's sponsorship.
The 2013 NAHC is expected to feature 16 clubs as eight provinces or regions will enter both female and male squads.
Quebec's EDN teams will compete, as will squads from the following provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.
Also taking part will be Team Atlantic and Team North. The former can include players from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland while the latter will feature players from the country's three territories, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The majority of the tournament matches will be staged at the Kahnawake Sports Complex, which can accommodate about 1,500 fans. Some contests will also be held in Brossard, 20 minutes east of Kahnawake.