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shíshálh Nation youth help win bronze at National Aboriginal Hockey Championships

Three shíshálh Nation athletes were among 40 hockey players who hit the ice for Team BC in Nova Scotia for the 2022 competition

Three young shíshálh Nation members helped Team BC earn two bronze medals at the 2022 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship (NAHC) earlier this month in Membertou, N.S. 

Rocky hits the ice 

As he made his NAHC debut, Rocky Nordvie of shíshálh First Nation became one of the boys’ team’s top players as a captain and first line centre, assistant coach Doneau Menard told Coast Reporter

The championship brings together Indigenous hockey players from across the country, each provincial team made up of athletes under 18 years old. The 2022 competition witnessed the return of NAHC to the ice since 2019, after two consecutive championships were cancelled because of the pandemic.

The B.C. boys’ and girls’ teams of 20 players each were selected from 147 elite Indigenous athletes during a three-day try-out and training camp held in Chilliwack in April.

“We hope he's back with us for another year,” Menard said as he described how Nordvie is one of the team leaders, on and off the ice. 

From power plays to important face-offs, Menard said Nordive was an important part of the team. Even though he was not the oldest in the group, Nordvie is described as being mature, helping make sure his teammates are on time and ready.

“He's strong offensively and defensively. He was depended on in all of the important situations.” 

Last year, when he was 15 years old, Nordvie was one of the 30 athletes under 25 years old honoured with the 2020 Premier’s Awards for Indigenous Youth Excellence in Sport. He spent last season playing with Okanagan Hockey Academy.

“I hope that he's able to return with us next year. Or if not, then that's probably because he's playing on a team that's still in the playoffs,” Menard said.

The third-place finish for B.C. boys makes this the team’s second consecutive bronze, as they earned the same medal in 2019. Menard said he believed they had a good draw to go for gold, but lost to the Ontario team in the semi-finals. 

The boys' team's 2022 results were as follows:

  • 4-1 win over Team Eastern Door and the North (Bronze medal match)
  • 4-1 loss to Ontario (semi-final)
  • 7-5 win over Team North (quarter-final)
  • 6-0 loss to Saskatchewan
  • 5-0 win over Team Atlantic
  • 3-2 win over Team Eastern Door and the North
  • 6-4 loss to Team North

Sister act 

It wasn’t Janelle Sadler’s first time representing shíshálh Nation and B.C. at the NAHC, but it was the first time she and her younger sister Jada joined forces for the provincial team. 

“They were very supportive of each other, which was really nice to see,” coach Darrel Stanwood said of the sisters.

In 2019, Janelle was one of four Sunshine Coast players selected to compete at the NAHC in Whitehorse. At the time, Stanwood described Sadler as a “natural goal scorer.” Now, he says Janelle was a big part of the team. Janelle was one of four returning players from the 2019 team, playing as a winger, and she also stepped up as an assistant captain this year. She played top six, power play and penalty kill.

Janelle’s also fast. “She worked hard. She was always engaged, and she was a good teammate. I had a lot of confidence in putting her out on the ice,” Stanwood said. 

Janelle usually plays forward for the Pacific Steelers, while Jada plays defence for North Shore Avalanche. While it was Janelle’s last eligible season to play in the NAHC, it was Jada’s debut championship. 

Even though she’s underage, Jada stood out during try-outs with her ability to rush and carry the puck on her own. She made the team a year early to play defence. 

“She showed really well there, she caught all of our eyes for the coaches. To make it as an underage defenseman was a nice accomplishment,” Stanwood said. “She played with a lot of poise and patience. She makes smart plays.”

Once she adjusted to the speed of the game during the championship, up against older players, she played strong, he added. 

“She has a very bright future with the program,” Stanwood said.

British Columbia's girls’ results were as follows:

  • 4-1 win over Saskatchewan (Bronze medal match)
  • 3-1 loss to Ontario (semi-final)
  • 9-0 win over Team Atlantic (quarter-final)
  • 3-2 loss to Ontario
  • 8-2 win over Team Atlantic
  • 7-1 loss to Manitoba
  • 9-1 win over Team Eastern Door and the North
  • 5-2 win over Saskatchewan

“Congratulations to all Team BC players, coaches, and staff for their outstanding performance at the 2022 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. We are very proud of how they represented themselves, their communities, province, and Nations both on-and-off the ice at this prestigious national championship,” Rick Brant, CEO of I·SPARC (Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council), said in a press release.

With files from Sophie Woodrooffe/ Coast Reporter and Kyle Balzer/Tri-City News