All-Indigenous team won the broomball championship in New York
An all-Indigenous broomball team from Quebec won the championship at the Syracuse CanAm broomball tournament in New York.
Now the AlgonCrees want to improve their talent even more: at the World Championships in Paris, France.
“I have this vision of coming up with our own Indigenous team,” said team captain Lorrain Nottaway, who is Algonquin from Barriere Lake. “There is a lot of potential within our region”
The team’s name represents Algonquin and Cree people from all over Quebec coming together to compete in high-level broomball. The Syracuse event Jan. 19-21, marked the first time the AlgonCrees competed in a tournament.
“One of the highlights was definitely our final game,” said Nottaway.
“We were down two points in the last two minutes, and we were able to catch up and take it to overtime.”
They recorded four wins and one loss to become champions in the women’s category.
Many team members are mothers with full-time jobs or students from Waskaganish, Pikogan and other communities.
Amanda Mayappo-Neeposh, who is Cree from Waswanipi, plays defense.
An emotional game for more than one reason
“We’ve always talked about wanting to bring an Indigenous team to one of these big tournaments, especially in the USA,” said Mayappo-Neeposh.
It was an emotional game for him not only because it was an all-native team that won the championship.
The AlgonCrees wore blue, light blue and pink ribbons on their jerseys representing Cree leukoencephalopathy (CLE) in honor of Mayappo-Neeposh’s child, Ottilia, who died in October.
CLE is an incurable genetic disorder that affects the development of the Cree baby’s brain. Babies usually die within weeks or months of their birth, according to the Cree Board of Health and Social Services in James Bay.
“When I first saw the jerseys, I felt very emotional,” Mayappo-Neeposh said. “I want to cry. It’s for my daughter and the other children who died from this disease.”
“It means a lot to have that ribbon on my jersey to try to spread awareness of the disease,” he added.
Mayappo-Neeposh’s colleagues, many of whom are also mothers, showed their support.
“He loved the sport. He loved his son. He was passionate about two things. It’s an honor to know that this is our friend, our teammate,” Nottaway said.
Untapped talent pool
The team has been working hard on fundraising to get to New York.
“I’m really trying to get the women’s team out of [Quebec] place for several years now,” SAYS Kevin Perrigo, who is the tournament director and has been involved in the tournament for over 30 years.
He has seen the game grow over the years.
“I watch over them [Indigenous] tournaments now for the last few years because they show it online. The talent pool is not available,” he said, adding that the AlgongCrees were more physical on the ice, which benefited them in their game wins.
The AlgonCrees overcame some setbacks in their first few games. They know that American broomball rules are different from Canadian rules.
The Americans have a concept known as the “floating blue line,” where once an attacking player crosses the blue line, the red line becomes an off-side and icing marker. The blue line is no longer considered an off-side or icing marker.
“They score a lot of goals because they know it quickly,” Perrigo said, adding that many people come to watch their games and have friendly conversations outside of the ice.
The AlgonCrees plan to play in more provincial tournaments together.
“Some people [on Facebook] They think they can just run with us because they’re faster, but we have a strong team,” Nottaway said.
The AlgonCrees want to compete in the 2024 International Federation of Broomball Associations (IFBA) World Broomball Championships in Paris this October.
“I’ve competed in the world championships twice in my broomball career but never on an all-Indigenous team,” said Mayappo-Neeposh. “And I’m really, really excited for that,”