Cowichan Tribes council member Calvin Swustus and artist Stuart Pagaduan unveil the logo for the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Cowichan Tribes council member Calvin Swustus and artist Stuart Pagaduan unveil the logo for the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

Preparations going ahead for National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

Tournament runs May 1-6 in Duncan and Lake Cowichan

Preparations are well under way as the clock counts down to the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships on May 1-6, with some unique Cowichan Valley twists in the works.

“We are on course,” said Rick Brant, executive director of the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council. “We’ve got an amazing group of local volunteers. A strong group has stepped up and we’re comfortable with where we’re at right now.”

Games at the tournament will be played at the Island Savings Centre and Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, featuring male and female teams from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Eastern Door and the North (Quebec), Atlantic, and the North. Approximately 450 players, coaches and team staff will be in attendance.

B.C. won gold at the male tournament at the 2016 championships in Mississauga, and placed fourth in the female competition.

In February, the official logo for the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships was unveiled, as designed by local Cowichan Tribes artist Stuart Pagaduan.

Also in the works is a legacy trophy for the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, carved by Coast Salish and Kwagiulth artist Carey Newman, who created the Spirit Pole for the 2008 North American Indigenous Games. Although the tournament started in 2002, there has never been a permanent trophy, something the Cowichan organizers are rectifying.

“One of the things we wanted to do as part of hosting it in B.C. and the Cowichan Valley was to create a legacy trophy and gift it to the Aboriginal Sport Circle,” Brant said. “It’s a neat connection [to NAIG 2008] to have Carey do it.”

The trophy will be completed in time for the tournament banquet on May 3.

In preparing for the tournament, the Partners Council has had support from several stakeholders including Cowichan Tribes, Métis Nation BC, the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Cowichan 2008 North American Indigenous Games Legacy, the Municipality of North Cowichan, the Town of Lake Cowichan, and viaSport, while the South Cowichan and Duncan Rotary Clubs have agreed to help prepare the meal at the banquet.