The first ever Major Midget League outdoor game was held in Fort St. James this weekend.
The Cariboo Cougars hosted the Vancouver North East Chiefs in the Northern Winter Classic Outdoor game on the Nak’azdii Whut’en Territory. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, with the Cougars taking the lead with the first goal by Connor Flemming midway through the second period.
The second goal for the Cougars was scored by Brennan Bott shortly after the first. Meanwhile, Christian Lowe and Samuel Schofield scored the goals for the Vancouver NE Chiefs. The game didn’t go into overtime as the ice was melting and a gouge formed behind the Cougar’s net. But both the teams did a friendly shootout at the end of the game.
“Look at all the excitement that is there in our community right now. We had people who came in bus loads from Vanderhoof, Burns Lake, Prince George – because it’s hockey and hockey is what is going to get everyone together… There are 10 teams in the Major Midget League so that is 10 years we want every team to get the opportunity to play on this ice,” said Rolene Sam, executive assistant and office manager of the Nak’azdii Whut’en administrative office.
Cougars General Manager Trevor Sprague worked along with the Nak’azdii band and Chief Alexander McKinnon to make this event a reality.
The first hurdle was getting the Ernie Sam Memorial Arena upgraded to meet BC Hockey requirements and regulations. Sam said, professional boards and glass were installed to make the space safe for an outdoor game. On the construction side of things, the band hired hereditary chief Marvin Martin to get a crew together.
“It is just the beginning. This event means a lot to the community, bringing in different people, different teams. This is just the start. So many people came in and there are people here who may have never known that the Fort was on the map,” said Martin.
Meanwhile, Sam said she believes this event will spark a greater interest in hockey not only in Fort St. James but the surrounding area as well.
“We have seen interest in hockey go down in the whole North West, so with this game today, we wanted to get our youth back here and inspire them, be roll models, learn how to live healthy lifestyles… So for this to happen and be an ongoing thing every year is great. We want this to get bigger and get the youth involved as much as possible,” she said.