Salish Storm Hockey, an Indigenous non-profit organization located in Nanaimo, plans to hold an event next week in honour of Truth and Reconciliation Day.
The event will include a barbecue, games of ball hockey and the unveiling of the Salish Storm’s new logo by artist Luke Marston, and will be held at 740 Howard Street in Nanaimo from 1:00-4:00p.m. on Sept 30.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action includes a call for government to “take action to ensure long-term Indigenous athlete development and growth through continued support of the North American Indigenous Games.”
The Salish Storm Hockey Association, established in 2019, was set up as a community development initiative in response to this call, to help encourage Indigenous children and youth to participate in hockey. The only of its kind in the mid-Island area, Salish Storm Hockey welcomes Indigenous players as young as six, and as old as 19.
Alan MacDonald, president of the Salish Storm Hockey Association, says the organization was created to address the low number of Indigenous hockey players represented in various minor hockey associations.
“There are a couple of players who play in minor hockey, but most are brand new to the ice,” MacDonald tells IndigiNews.
Starting off with ball hockey and inline hockey, Salish Storm Hockey has slowly built towards securing funding and rink space. Now, in 2021, all gear is provided, and the group plans to build skills in skating, shooting, and teamwork.
Their first event of the season had a turnout of over forty children — from various communities, including Penelakut Island, Stz’uminus, Snuneymuxw, Qualicum and Snaw-Naw-As, as well as Indigenous families living in Nanaimo and Ladysmith municipalities, MacDonald says.
Hockey, though popular, is often inaccessible, he explains.
“A child can come to us, have no experience, no gear and no idea other than the fact that they want to play hockey. And we’ll take care of them. And we’ll see them through that,” he says.
The association will be working on developing a volunteer coaching program for parents to start in 2022, he adds.
Currently, Salish Storm Hockey works to have one coach for every four children, averaging ten coaches. MacDonald is not Indigenous and among the current volunteers, about 50 per cent are Indigenous, he says.
The day of barbecue and ball hockey planned for next week will grow on “the progress and achievement we have made from a start-up ball hockey group to a year round ice/inline and ball hockey platforms have been enabled by many volunteers, local municipal leaders and sponsors,” according to the event page.
“Our truth and reconciliation event on September 30… It’s about recognizing that reconciliation is occurring and this is an example of it,” says MacDonald.