The Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nations will be hosting their annual year-end ball hockey tournament Dec. 30 and Dec. 31 at the Wakas Community Hall.
The tournament is held in honour of Peter Charlie, Trish Charlie and Gilbert Walkus who died in a fire in an apartment complex on Highland Drive on Jan. 1, 2010.
The memorial tournament has been hosted every year since 2011, says organizer Maggie Coon.
The tournament will start on Dec. 30 at 12 p.m. (noon) and ends on Dec. 31 around dinner time.
The invitation is sent to all First Nations and “the teams come from all over Vancouver Island,” Coon said.
“The most we’ve had was 13 men’s and six ladies (teams),” she said.
“We actually bought a banner when we started doing it and we raised a flag for them up in the hall with their picture on it,” Coon said.
This year there will also be a “roadblock” at the bridge from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. where there will free hotdogs, hot chocolate and coffee, and safety pamphlets will also be handed out. This is the second time the roadblock has been organized. Coon was living down island last year and was unable to organize the roadblock.
Coon is hoping to extend the event outside the GNN community.
“We invite our Port Hardy neighbours to take part in showing our communities that we care and to be safe on New Year’s Eve.”
RCMP and the fire department members will also be on hand at the roadblock.
The GNN uses hockey as a way to honour its fallen.
“Hockey has been a sport on our reserve for almost as long as we have been here,” said Coon.
“It’s been a popular sport on our reserve. Our parents and our grandparents played it and the tradition has been passed down to us.”
Not to mention they are really good at it.
“Our ladies team Chix with Stix was the number one team on the island for 13 years,” said Coon.
Trish was also a member of that team, Gilbert played for the men’s team The Regulators, and Peter played for the GNN memorial team “representing all the people that we have lost on our reserve.”
The memorial ball hockey tournaments are “uplifting for our community” and a way for them “to get together and remember who they were, especially for the parents”.
Peter and Trish were brother and sister, “so their mom Maria Charley lost two children in the one fire. All three of them have children as well.
“That’s why it is really important for our community to be together that day,” said Coon.
“Our community does take it really hard that they are not alongside of us anymore.”