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Indigenous kids light the lamp at Winnipeg hockey tournament

Playoff hockey in July? It’s a ball.  At least, that’s the way it must have felt Sunday for about 20 teams of Indigenous youth who were capping off a province-wide ball-hockey tournament in Winnipeg.

Kids battle for the ball at Norberry-Glenlee Community Centre Sunday during the Manitoba Indigenous Youth Ball Hockey Tournament . (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Playoff hockey in July? It’s a ball. 

At least, that’s the way it must have felt Sunday for more than 20 teams of Indigenous youth who were capping off a two-day province-wide ball-hockey tournament in Winnipeg.

Kids aged from eight to 16 came from across Manitoba (and Fort Frances, Ontario) to participate in the three-on-three tourney at Norberry-Glenlee Community Centre, with the champs being crowned after a day of playoff matches on Sunday.

It’s the second year the tournament has run. Organizer Matt Nobess said demand has been growing and the response to it from the players has been very positive.

“I feel like this is important because they don’t have a lot of events or activities to really look forward to, and sports is huge in these communities,” Nobess said.

“So I’m hoping this is something that continues to grow. The difference from even last year is huge. We’ve got a lot more spectators and parents and support. So, you know, we’re on the right track,” he said.

Nathan Nepinak brought in three teams from his home community of Black River First Nation, located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg.

He said the community had two teams last year but it was such a hit with the young players more and more are getting involved.

“Most of the kids don’t leave the community for sports, so this is … one of the sports that we leave the community for,” Nepinak said. “And to come to Winnipeg and be a part of this, it’s awesome.”

The tournament is hosted by Indigenous Vitality — an organization that puts on sports camps in First Nations communities in Canada.

The group is hoping to make this weekend’s tournament an annual one, and to expand it beyond Manitoba.

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