Indigenous youth learn to skate alongside NHLers in Headingley, Man.
Young skaters from various parts of the province spent some time with former NHL players Saturday while also enhancing their on-ice abilities at Camp Manitou.
True North Sports + Entertainment hosted Indigenous youth this weekend as part of the fifth annual Jets' Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and Manitoba Moose Follow Your Dreams initiative.
Youth from northern and remote Indigenous communities — including Pauingassi First Nation, Northlands Denesuline First Nation, Bunibonibee Cree Nation, Shamattawa First Nation, Minegoziibe Anishinabe First Nation and the Métis Community of Duck Bay — came together in Headingley, Man., on the weekend.
Former NHL players Trevor Kidd and John Chabot were among those assisting the youth, as was Jets scout Sydney Daniels.
Trevor LaForte, the executive director of WASAC, was also on hand to see the smiles from the participants, who ranged from around 10 years old into their teens.
"To be able to be around role models like Sydney Daniels, John Chabot and Trevor Kidd that have grown up with having Indigenous background and have succeeded in hockey is fantastic for the kids to see," LaForte said.
"The biggest thing that we like out of this is the kids all have smiles on their face from the moment they've landed in Winnipeg ... and everyone's smiling from ear to ear."
Izzy Hayes was out Saturday on the Camp Manitou ice.
She admits she's not a great skater, but the Winnipegger was enjoying herself on the ice.
"It's a cool way to learn something that I struggle with," Hayes said. "I'm having lots of fun. The youth are having fun."
As part of WASAC Night, Hayes and the other kids will be at Canada Life Centre for Saturday's NHL matchup between the Jets and Edmonton Oilers.
Both the Jets and Oilers will be wearing Indigenous-themed warm-up jerseys, which will mark the first time two NHL teams will be on the ice together as such.
Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and current grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and chief of Sagkeeng First Nation, will be among those involved in the ceremonial puck drop before the game.
"There's gonna be some great events happening there. The youth choir is gonna be singing the national anthem in Dakota," LaForte said.
"The Winnipeg Jets goaltenders are going to have their masks, they have the Indigenous logo on them, and there's going to be all sorts of culture and fun events there that the kids can experience and take pride in."