Past NHL greats John Chabot, Ted Nolan and Gino Odjick take to the ice in Ottawa this weekend, joining fellow Native players from across Canada for three days of pure hockey.
The 28th annual Odawa All Native Hockey Tournament kicked off at the Bell Sensplex in Kanata yesterday afternoon and runs through tomorrow. About 500 Aboriginal men and women make up the 32 competing teams.
The event is hosted by the Odawa Aboriginal Athletics Association, a non-profit, Ottawa-based group that works to connect the Native community through sports.
Randy Way has lived in Ottawa for 10 of the past 12 years and has competed in the tournament, but this is his first year acting as an organizer.
"It's a chance for the community to show Ottawa a positive image of Aboriginal people, (playing hockey) like anyone else," said Way. "It's a chance to share cultures."
This weekend's competitors are broken into five different divisions, one competitive and four recreational. Most players are amateurs, but a few have had their day in the big leagues.
"There are so many good role models in the tournament," Way said.
Chabot is best known for his NHL ice time with the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Last year, he was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament and was on the winning, 19-plus competitive team.
It's the downtown-Ottawa resident's third time participating, and though he's already proven himself in the pros, he admitted being a bit nervous yesterday.
"People always expect a certain player. If you haven't skated for a while, you always think 'Okay, I don't know how things will go on the ice,' " Chabot laughed.
While Chabot said he thinks the event is great for creating bonds between Aboriginal communities, he's doing some serious personal connecting himself.
Chabot, now 43, will play with his 20-year-old son on his Native community's team, the Kitigan Zibi Bulls.
He said he's looking forward to spending quality time on the ice with the budding hockey player.
"When I was a kid, there wasn't very many (tournaments)," said Chabot. "He's a defenceman and I'm a centreman.It's really nice to be able to play together."
Nolan, a former NHL coach and player recently hired to coach the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Moncton Wildcats, will also be participating.
Odjick played for four NHL teams during his career, including Vancouver and Montreal.