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National Aboriginal Hockey Championship Gets Host

Officials with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) stepped up a year earlier than they had originally planned to. As a result, Saskatoon will host the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC) not only this year but in 2012 as well.

For awhile, it appeared there would be no Canadian Aboriginal tournament in 2011. Despite extended deadlines for bid submissions, no group had expressed interest in staging this year's event. And then in mid-January, when officials from the Aboriginal Sports Circle (ASC) were seriously considering cancelling the 2011 tournament, the STC came forward and said they would organize the event. The ASC board voted on Jan. 21 to accept the Saskatoon bid submission. It also awarded the STC the 2012 tournament.

NAHC tournament co-chair Mark Arcand said the STC had not expressed interest in staging this year's event before as it was instead focussing on submitting a bid to stage the 2012 championship. "That was our main target - to host it for 2012," Arcand said, adding the reason STC officials were keen on next year's tournament is because the Saskatchewan Hockey Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary next season. Traditionally about 10 male and 10 female squads from across Canada take part in the tournament, which has been staged annually since 2001. Due to the delays in announcing a host and the tournament uncertainties, several groups decided they will not send teams to this year's event.

So far only four provinces - Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan - have confirmed that they will be ice both male and female squads.Arcand said British Columbia and the Quebec-based clubs, who call themselves Eastern Door and the North, have expressed some interest in competing in the tournament. Organizers have set a registration deadline of Feb. 25.

While having only four entrants per division might not be ideal, Norman Ettawacappo, the ASC's Major Games Liaison, said this is not necessarily a bad thing. "The less teams you have the easier it is for the hosts to service them," he said. If only four provinces end up sending teams, Arcand said it would cost about $75,000 to run the tournament. And this figure would rise to about $100,000 if British Columbia and Quebec also sent clubs. So far the dates set aside for the tournament are from Apr. 26 through May 1. But Arcand said there's a chance not all six days would be required. "It might only be a four-day or five-day event (depending on the number of entries)," he said.

Ettawacappo said it wasn't a surprise other groups had not expressed interest in hosting this year's tournament. "I'm not surprised because of the challenges faced by previous hosts," he said. "Most of them have broken even or they've lost money."

The ASC also had difficulties finding a host for the 2010 NAHC. As a result, the group hosted the tournament itself in Ottawa, the nation's capital. Ettawacappo said the ASC could not have done the same thing this year. "We just had a change in management," he said. "We didn't have the manpower to do this."