New Hockey Program Creating Opportunities on the James Bay Coast
Traveling is a common occurrence for hockey teams in northern Ontario.
But for minor hockey teams in remote communities in the north, that travel is even more challenging.
The Moose River Attack hockey team is a fine example of that.
The team, comprised of nine and 10-year-olds from the northern communities on the James Bay Coast including Moosonee, Moose Cree First Nation, and Moose Factory, use three different modes of transportation to get to a hockey tournament; by helicopter, by train, and by car.
It starts with a short helicopter ride across the Moose River, then the team boards a train in Moosonee to Cochrane.
Brenden Biedermann is their head coach. Much like these youngsters, he grew up loving the game of hockey on the James Bay Coast.
Biedermann went on to play 18 OHL games with the Sudbury Wolves and more than 218 contests in the NOJHL with the Sudbury Northern Wolves, Sudbury Junior Wolves, and the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats amassing 107 goals and 260 points.
His oldest daughter plays on the new Attack team that competed in its first rep hockey tournament in New Liskeard in November.
"They love it," Biedermann said about the event.
"They get to hang out together and socialize at the hotels. It is something they have not really done in the last two years.
"To them, they don’t even realize what they are doing. No other youth team in the world is doing this, but for them, it is normal."
It's a big deal for the youth on the James Bay Coast. Biedermann remembers a time when hockey was all youngsters wanted to do, especially when he was growing up and idolizing local NHL superstar Jonathan Cheechoo.
Cheechoo grew up in Moose Factory, always remembered his roots, and went on to play more than 500 NHL games including one 56-goal season back in 2005-2006.
"When Jonathan made it, everybody wanted to do that so we were all working towards that and that has kind of slipped by the wayside lately," said the 35-year-old coach.
"But with this rep team, the Moose River Attack we are trying to reinitiate that and get kids re-engaged and thinking a little bit differently about hockey."
While the weather in the far north of northern Ontario allows youth hours of outdoor ice in the winter months, Biedermann believes they need to experience more structured hockey.
That is the reason for the establishment of the Moose River Attack program.
At one time there was no need to have elite teams and elite programs in our area,” said Biedermann.
“That is because everybody played and that is all they ever did," he recalls.
"They used to do so many things outdoors that their development was not really an issue.
"Nowadays with technology; kids are being pulled in so many different directions that it is harder for them to naturally improve and build their skills. Now more sport-specific training has to go into it.”
The Attack is expected to attend a few more tournaments in the new year.
Biedermann hopes the program continues to grow and maybe one day another Jonathan Cheechoo-type player can say he or she started their hockey dream playing for the Moose River Attack.
Originally hailing from Lethbridge, Alberta, Chris Dawson is now a proud resident of North Bay. He joined BayToday.ca in 2004 and is known for his up-to-the-minute sports coverage and as a key member of the BayToday news team. Chris was chair of the 2007 Winning Hockeyville Committee.