For the first time ever, Regina will host the 19th annual National Aboriginal Hockey Championships (NAHC), a competition that is expected to bring up to 5,000 visitors to the queen city. This will be the fourth time the championships take place in Saskatchewan. The NAHC 2020 Host Committee and the City of Regina says they’ll be ready to host.

“I think it’s going to be an exciting week in May and we’re working on it to be one of the best championships that we ever hosted,” said Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, First Vice Chief, Morley Watson.

“It showcases our city, it showcases a lot of incredibly talented hockey players, boys and girls 13 to 18 years old,” added Michael Fougere, Mayor of Regina.

Nineteen year-old, Roddy Ross from Meadow Lake competed in the NAHC for the last three years and now plays for the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds as a goalie. He says the competition creates stronger relationships with the Indigenous community and it helps grow the next wave of professional Indigenous hockey players who have dreams to play in the NHL.

“You want to play in the tournament. It’s a tournament that’s been growing over the years, its only getting better. For me, you hope to be in the NHL and sign that contract and that’s one thing that I’m going for and that’s the game plan for me,” said Ross.

“Players that went on who played in this event include the King family, Stanley Cup champion with the Los Angeles Kings participated in the NAHC, We had Ethan Bear from Ochapowace First Nation in the NAHC who is now playing with the Edmonton Oilers,” said Ken Thomas, Director of Sports, Culture and Recreation with the FSIN.

Twenty teams from across the Canada will compete for the trophy and bragging rights. This year’s NAHC in Whitehorse, Team Saskatchewan’s girls team won gold while the boys team took home silver.

Vice Chief Watson says Saskatchewan has up to 50 Indigenous hockey players to choose from and north and south hockey camps will take place later in the year. Team Saskatchewan will be represented with a boys and girls team ranging from elite bantam and midget-aged hockey players. Vice Chief Watson says the players must achieve excellence on and off the ice to be chosen.

“You have to have certain grades in school as well as attendance. You have to have a good standing in your school and our young people realize that,” added Vice Chief Watson.

According to the FSIN, the NAHC is expected to bring a total of $5 million to Saskatchewan’s economy.

The NAHC takes place in Regina from May 9 to 16, 2020.