Christmas in Moose Factory is always a great time to spend with family and friends. There’s the usual decorating of the house, putting up a tree, and stringing colourful lights. It’s also a time for family dinners at my sister’s place, and getting together with friends from my other band, Country Mayhem. This year we ate moose meat, goose with dumplings, homemade ravioli, and my brother Gordon baked a Christmas pudding. It was all very delicious, and special, too.
Another holiday tradition I’ve come to enjoy is hockey. Growing up, while I was never good enough to play in local organized leagues, I always enjoyed playing on neighborhood streets. It’s where I learned about hockey.
When you think about it, just about every Canadian kid – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – has played street hockey, pond hockey, or backyard rink hockey. It’s where we all first learned to shoot, skate, or simply just run around on ice. It’s where we learned to love hockey.
As we got older, my friends in the Linklater family started an annual Christmas hockey tournament on Cotter Street in Moosonee, using a tennis ball for the puck. For a while our tourney was called the “Cotter Cup,” and friends young and old, and their children, too, all came together to join in the good ‘ol street hockey game.
We’d dress warm, wearing snow boots, thick gloves, ski pants, and winter hats. We’d usually have enough players to make three teams, with the best two teams advancing to play in the final game. The first team to score three goals would be named champions, and get to proudly hoist the Cotter Cup – a small water pail nailed to a wooden base. Captain of the winning team also got to keep the Cup until next tournament.
Playing pond hockey is fun, and allows us to relive some of our childhood glory, be with friends, get some exercise in over Christmas, and have a few good laughs, especially when someone takes an unexpected spill on the ice! I’ve never won the tournament before, but this year, with some good luck, good defense, awesome stick handling, and no injuries, my team won – making us the Champions! Haha!
Over the last few years, we’ve changed the name and location of the tournament. It’s now called the “Veterans’ Cup” in honour of World War II veteran Munroe Linklater, the father of my friends. We now play on a small pond near my house which is sheltered from the wind, and where we can make a small fire to warm-up around. Some bring hot chocolate, tea, coffee, snacks, even a hot toddy or two to keep the cold bodies warm.
Our annual Veterans’ Cup pond hockey game in Moose Factory has become a fun and meaningful tradition with friends and family that I look forward to every Christmas.
And now, in this New Year that’s upon us… I’m also looking forward to my winning team keeping the cup until next Christmas. Haha!