A popular Indigenous hockey tournament was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship was slated for Apr. 24-26 in Saskatoon.

Despite the cancellation, the event was moved online and teams played against each other using the NHL 2020 video game.

Neil Sasakamoose is the organizer of the tournament and he says players from Quebec reached out to him about taking the tournament online.

“They asked if they could help us organize an EA Sports NHL 2020 tournament online and I thought I’d think about it, I asked a bunch of people and went online,” said Sasakamoose. “People just started wanting to do it, so we ended up testing an online tournament, which was pretty successful I think.”

Sasakamoose says they were overwhelmed with the number of people wanting to take part in the action.

“When we sent out our information to see who would be interested, we made it all communities, you had to play for your own reserve or you had to play for your Metis community,” said Sasakamoose. “There was 160 entries we got, we couldn’t take them all, so we narrowed it down to a 64-team event that started Friday, Saturday and ended Sunday at about nine o’clock in the evening.”

Sasakamoose says they will look at hosting the online tournament again next year.

Next year’s on-ice event is slated for Apr. 23-25 in Saskatoon at Merlis Belsher Place.

(PHOTO: Fred Sasakamoose tournament logo. Photo courtesy of Fred Sasakamoose “Chief Thunderstick” National Hockey Championship, Facebook.)