By: Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

Some of the country’s best youth hockey players will compete in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Grande Prairie from May 5 to 11.

About 350 athletes, 100 coaches and officials, and dignitaries are expected to come to the city.

“It’s going to be a blend of sport and culture,” said Chenoa Esau, city recreation and sport coordinator.

“It’ll provide a forum for elite Bantam midget age (11-17) indigenous youth to compete and also come together in ceremony and camaraderie.”

She said the tournament also brings cultural elements to the city; a smudge tipi, Cree announcers at the games, and an indigenous vendor alley will be available.

Additionally, external community events like the RBC Training Ground will take place where athletes aged 14 to 25 can participate in a talent identification program that searches for athletes to be part of Team Canada for the upcoming Olympics.

Brigette Lacquette, Olympic silver medalist and the first First Nations hockey player named to Canada’s National Women’s Team will also visit local schools to talk to students.

The tournament will also have an opening ceremony on May 6 at 8 p.m. at the Design Works Centre.

Canadian Olympic bobsledder Eden Wilson will also be at the tournament and is expected to speak at the opening ceremonies.

After the ceremonies, the puck will drop as Team Alberta faces off against Team Saskatchewan.

“I’m really excited about all the cultural pieces and bringing together different nations,” said Esau.

A community art project where about 700 hockey pucks were painted by community members will create a collage in the Design Works Centre to welcome athletes and spectators as they attend the games.

“Community involvement is always an important part of a lot of public sculpture, and it creates a connection, making the event more personal,” said Coun. Grant Berg, whose business helped facilitate the puck painting.

“From an artistic standpoint, for me personally, I always love people being involved, exploring art and creating a connection to an event or a place or a city, especially the young kids.”

Esau noted that all the volunteer shifts for the tournament have been filled, and about 60 people have volunteered to help with the games.

The games and opening ceremony will be free to attend and live-streamed on YouTube. For more information, including the schedule and links to the live stream, go to

“We’ll be doing live updates as the event is going on straight to the NHC website, so that’s definitely the best place for information,” said Esau.

The city is focusing on sports tourism as an economic booster.

“Municipal investment in sport tourism has proven to have significant direct and indirect benefits to the community while fostering youth sports development,” read a city report after the Alberta Winter Games in February. The winter games brought the region an estimated economic impact of $4.6 million.

The city will also host the upcoming  2025 Special Olympics Alberta Summer Games and the 2026 Wrestling National Championships.