Frequent change in leadership at the Ooknakane Friendship Centre has resulted in Penticton losing its bid to host the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships.
It was announced in early May that Penticton would host the NAHC at the South Okanagan Events Centre, however, the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation and Physical Activity Partners Council issued a press release Thursday stating that Cowichan has been selected as the official host site.
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Matthew Baran, the new executive director of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre, said it was a mutual decision between them and the Aboriginal Sport Circle, the national body that oversees the event, going back to September.
“We obviously want to showcase Penticton. It’s a beautiful city,” said Baran. “In the next year or two we are really aggressively going to pursue hosting again. I see the value and the potential. This is a hockey town. This is where it needs to be.”
Baran also said they were asked to put up a $50,000 security deposit, which as a non-profit organization, they were unable to do. The Penticton Indian Band and City of Penticton also wouldn’t fund the deposit.
The Partners Council brought together a group of local community leaders that had been involved with the successful delivery of the Cowichan 2008 North American Indigenous Games to explore the possibility of hosting the 2017 NAHC. The opportunity was met with considerable enthusiasm. Once the primary venues — The Island Savings Centre and the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena — were confirmed, along with support in principle from community stakeholders, including Cowichan Tribes, Métis Nation BC, and the CVRD, the Partners Council presented a proposal to the Aboriginal Sport Circle. Its member organizations voted unanimously to allow the 2017 NAHC to be hosted in Cowichan.
“We are very excited to be bringing the 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships to Cowichan,” said Rick Brant, Executive Director of the Partners Council. “Cowichan has a rich hockey history and with the region’s successes in delivering the 2008 North American Indigenous Games, along with other prestigious provincial, national and international competitions, it was an obvious choice. With the approval of the Aboriginal Sport Circle, we are now in a position to establish a shared partnership with the community and begin preparations for delivering a benchmark event.”
“The individuals in Cowichan are the ones that did the Indigenous Games in 2008,” said Baran. “They are a fairly good crew that knows what they are doing. Them taking this on was the natural choice.”