Go to main menu Go to main content Go to footer

Sports ᒫᑎᐧᐋᐧᐃᓐ

Waskaganish hockey and broomball tournament livestreamed for the first time

BY Joshua Janke Feb 26, 2024

The Waskaganish Wings were the hometown heroes, winning the Class A final in the 35th Annual Waskaganish Hockey and Broomball Tournament in late January.

Led by the Hester brothers, Alex #89 and Brett #69, the Wings showcased hockey heart and hustle at its finest. After prevailing in a dramatic semifinal that saw the Wings down 3-1 only to come roaring back to score three unanswered goals enroute to a 4-3 overtime victory. 

The Wings surged into the final with this momentum, finishing off the tournament in wild fashion with an 8-1 blowout that stuffed the stat sheet and delighted hometown fans. With the tournament win, the Wings maintained home-ice advantage, securing the $18,000 Class A cash prize and bragging rights until next year. 

Tournament organizer and proud father, Charles J. Hester, surprised Cree hockey players and fans by hiring his friend, Jonathan Levert from Image Nomade Production, to capture all the games at this action-packed event.

“I worked with Jonathan’s dad, who used to come up and work on the phone lines,” said Hester, explaining how he first met Levert. “Jonathan is exceptional at his craft. We agreed to make this tournament extra special and memorable for all.” 

Hester, who was in Montreal to enjoy some NHL action before the tournament, announced via Facebook that this year he would bring Cree hockey one step closer to the big leagues. This he accomplished with a professional photographer and livestreams of all games with play-by-play commentary by Hester himself.

“It was great. I told players to send me their game times and jersey numbers so we could take specific shots. I told them that all they had to do is play fast and hard and we’ll find them. No one is ever too fast for the camera,” said Hester.

Photos by Jonathan Levert of Image Nomade Productions

“With the photos, the live stream, and the commentating, it brought it to another level. These are good players, it’s high-level hockey. The other communities responded well. There were many grandparents and community members who had expressed a desire to watch the games despite not being able to make the drive to Waskaganish.” 

Not only did Hester organize and commentate the games, but he also laced up his skates to play in the tournament’s recreational division. “I don’t want to just watch a hockey game – I want to play,” said Hester.

“Hockey is a family thing for us, I got eight boys and six of them have already played in the tournament. The two youngest are still in minor hockey. Organizing events like this doesn’t feel like work for me.” 

Commentating in the Cree language is what brings the community together, because hockey and broomball are connection points for family members and Cree communities, explained Hester. “I tried my best to do everything in Cree. There are so many kids playing hockey here, so it becomes a cultural connection where learning can occur more easily because it just feels natural and fun.” 

Hester said that every language is in danger because there is always the possibility that people will stop using it in favour of another. He sees hockey as part of the solution to combat language loss in Eeyou Istchee because it’s an easy introduction. “I can see that fewer young people speak it. One of my sons understands me when I speak our language, but he still replies in English. I tell him that if he doesn’t use it, he will lose it. I am just putting my words into action, and what’s better than hockey action?” 

Hester sees it as a marriage of sport and language. “All the kids are excited about hockey, and this excitement transferred to language when I was commentating,” Hester said. 

“It was interesting creating Cree translations for English hockey terms like offside and icing,” he said, explaining that the word he created for icing translates into English as “when the puck goes all the way across the pond”. 

“I think that makes more sense than ‘icing’ anyways,” Hester said with a laugh. “The audience loved it.” 

Overall, this year’s tournament reached nearly 200,000 people and 60,000 of them viewed the livestream broadcast. That’s a lot of people who got to hear the Cree language in their living rooms or handheld devices. Fans also filled the arena, creating a charged atmosphere that could be heard during Hester’s broadcasts. “The building was packed, and it was loud.” 

The tournament was widely supported. The Waskaganish Youth Council, Gordon’s Canteen, Blackned Construction and Blackned were the tournament’s major sponsors, while the Waskaganish Youth Department, Smokey Hill Grocery, Googoo K’s, Siibi Radio, and Waska Ressources all made Gold Level sponsorships. 

“Believe me, I know how boring it can be to play in an empty venue,” said Hester. “Thanks to the fans, MCs, DJs, referees, coaches and first responders who made this possible. This was a success we all played a part in, both on and off the ice.” 

Tournament Results

Final Class A
Champions: Waskaganish Wings
Finalists: Chisasibi Hunters 

Final A-Broomball

Champion: Wemindji Ice Stars
Finalist: Eastmain Angels

Final B-Broomball

Champion: Wemindji Crees

Finalist: Chisasibi Scorpions

Final Recreational Hockey

Champion: Chisasibi

Finalist: Waskaganish Raiders

Women Hockey Final

Champion: Mistissini Mustangs 

Finalist: Ouje Lady Hawks

LATEST ᒫᐦᒡ ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Joshua Janke lives in Montreal and is studying English Literature at Mcgill University. He is passionate about writing, social justice, and creating art.