A unique cultural exchange took place last week that spanned two continents.
The first-ever Indigenous ice hockey club from Australia joined some Maskwacis community members in a friendly game at the Four Nations Arena on Jan. 13.
Originally, the team called the Kaurna Boomerangs with boys and girls that range in age from 13 to 19, was to face off against the Maskwacis Hawks peewee squad in an exibition contest. However, as the Australian club isn’t an officially sanctioned team, Hockey Alberta would not allow the Maskwacis team to participate.
The hockey program down under was first formed in 2005 as a pilot to get Indigenous youth into the sport. That initial eight-week stint would translate 12 years later into the current project, aimed at helping Aboriginal youth at risk attending disadvantaged school to develop life skills and improve their self-esteem.
The game in Maskwacis saw the Aussie’s end up on the positive side of a 9-8 score, after coming up with the victory in the second round of a shootout in front of around 100 specators, who showed up in spite of the bitter cold.
The trip to Canada started on Jan. 10 with the club heading back home on Jan. 18. Aside from playing some games — the Boomerangs played in Calling Lake on Jan. 17 — the players were able to see the Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Oil Kings in action as well as do some ice fishing, snowshoeing and participate in some Cree cultural traditions courtesy of the First Nations in Calling Lake and Maskwacis.