By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Those who attend the Columbia Valley Rockies U-9 hockey tournament at Eddie Mountain Memorial arena on February 18 and 19 will have the chance to bring home more than just memories. This year’s tournament will be auctioning off a hockey stick valued at $1200, hand-painted by Cree artist Jason Carter.
In 2021 Hockey Canada asked Carter, from Little Red River Cree Nation in northern Alberta, to design 150 sticks for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. There, 62 of the 150 sticks Carter created were given as ‘player of the game’ awards, and to dignitaries at the sporting event.
Carter is an Edmonton Oilers fan called the opportunity to design these sticks an honour, and applauded Hockey Canada for incorporating Indigenous culture into the game. The contemporary game of hockey stems from a very colourful history and has some Indigenous roots. In the late 1600’s Europeans first observed ice-hockey being played by the Mi’kmaq First Nation in Nova Scotia using a frozen road apple for a puck.
Invermere is a hockey town. George and Jessica Pemberton have been involved in it for the past five years since moving here from Vancouver Island 12 years ago. Their youngest son Jules (#5) plays defence for the U-9; their eldest son, Ronan, (#17) plays defence for the U-11 team. George is the head coach for the U-9s, and the assistant coach for the U-11s. This was Jessica’s first year managing the U-11 team. While in Banff for a Canmore hockey tournament Jessica wandered into the Carter Ryan Gallery where she came across three of Carter’s beautiful hand-painted sticks.
“I just decided to go in to look at some beautiful art not knowing that this artist was the one who had hand-painted hockey sticks for Team Canada’s Juniors, two years ago,” said Pemberton
With years of working with the non-profit Groundswell Network Society Jessica has become comfortable approaching people, and without expectations inquired about one of Carter’s beautiful pieces of Indigenous culture and hockey heritage being donated.
“The salesperson took me very seriously and I was quickly told that Jason loves to donate in support of local community groups, and that they would see what they could do,” said Pemberton. “We were specifically given the stick that is painted orange. It’s the same shade as the Rockies’ orange which makes it a very neat thing.”
With each hockey group having their own tournament, the two-day event for the U-9 team (ages seven and eight) will be held at Eddie Mountain Memorial arena on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. There is no cost and it is open for all to attend.
“We will be having 50/50 draws during the game and a raffle basket table, cash only, plus the silent auction hockey stick as our fundraiser,” said Jessica Pemberton. “The winner of the silent action will be informed before the end of the tournament.”
All proceeds from the draws and raffle will go back into local Rockies hockey.
“I’m pretty blown away, and bowled over by their generosity,” said Pemberton. “It’s a huge honour to be gifted such a beautiful piece of art, and we are truly appreciative.