Two local youths from the Columbia Valley will be heading to Saskatoon to compete in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship during the last week of April.
RT Rice and TJ Bone, both of whom play minor midget hockey in Invermere, traveled to Merritt recently to try out for the provincial team along with 95 other potential players from around the province.
“They only picked 20 of us,” said RT. “There were kids from all over the place.”
The tryout consisted of a variety of skill tests, as well as scrimmages, TJ said. “We were split into four teams. We both made it in our regular position of forward.”
Both RT and TJ have been playing hockey their whole lives, they said, and are extremely excited and honoured to be able to represent their province at a national competition.
“I think it’s a pretty good team,” TJ said. “Last year not as many kids tried out so they had a lot of players to choose from this year.” RT added that both he and TJ will be working on some skill development and fitness leading up to the competition, and felt it wouldn’t be too hard to jump in and start playing once they arrive in Saskatoon.
One of the coaches of the newly formed team, and Chief of the Kamloops Indian Band, Shane Gottfriedson said that RT and TJ stuck out as hard working players who he is very excited to have on board this year.
“When you’re looking at building a national level team you look for skilled players — guys that can fill in the first line role and secondary offence, and you want some shut-down guys for the third and fourth lines.
We were looking for big, full-power kids who can shoot the puck and make the plays and both RT and TJ worked hard at camp and impressed the coaches. They have good solid attitudes and the work ethic needed to make the team.”
Mr. Gottfriedson said the coaching staff had to make some tough choices this year, given the number of kids who tried out, but at the end of the day they will be heading to the nationals with confidence.
“A lot of good kids made the team and a lot of good kids didn’t make the team. We had some tough decisions we had to make with the cuts,” Mr. Gottfriedson said.
The team will gather in Kamloops on April 23rd for a practice before hopping on an overnight bus to Saskatoon. The team has another practice on Monday, April 25th and the games start on Tuesday, April 26th.
“Our goal is to work hard as a team and to do what it takes to win the championship,” Mr. Gottfriedson said.