Harly Washipabano and her mother Dolores, Zane’s grandmother, watch the Bears skate down the handshake line.

“It’s great, not like my Quebec tournament,” he said. “We were living in Montreal at the time — my mother worked there as a nurse and I was the only Aboriginal child on the team. It was a good time, but it’s something really special to be part of a Cree team.

It’s mid-May, when minor hockey seasons are usually over, so it’s not hard for kids and their parents to look forward to next fall. Big decisions await us. For the kids born in 2009 – Bentley Bobbish, Connor Napash and Leesha Grant among them – they’ll move on to the next level, maybe the Cree Nations Bears bantam team in Oujé-Bougoumou, or maybe points higher south, as Bobbish did. Talk about.

The Wasshipabanos have had this conversation before. “Zane is a freshman, a 2010 – he’s got another peewee year,” Charly says. “I asked Zane the other day if he wanted to play AAA at Amos. He could give it a try this summer. I’ve made it his choice completely – I’d support whatever he wants. He’s looking to play to a higher level and go somewhere with his game. It would be hard in Amos, French only at school there. No English — and no shouting, of course. He told me that he wanted to go back to Waswanipi. There was no doubt in his mind. He’ll be able to wear his name in Cree for another winter. I’m sure coming here played a big part in that – a chance to be a leader The program will grow when we can attract young players who would play AAA elsewhere or retain young players who might consider this to be the place they want to go.

“This is just the beginning.”

They can keep their sweaters.

In the second round, the Cree Nation Bears came from behind to defeat the St. Laurent Spartans 3-2 with Connor Naposh scoring the game-winning goal in the last minute of regulation time. The Bears tournament ended with a 5-2 defeat against the Gladiators of Aosta. Aosta, an Italian side, won their next two games to claim the BB Division Championship.

This story features artwork by Kyle Charles, an Edmonton Cree artist whose work has appeared in DC and Marvel publications.