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Im calling around for people to give me a boost. But its cold and most have left town. Its the annual pilgrimage to Val-dOr for some all-out sports event featuring the up-and-coming, the best, the fastest, the oldest, the messiest, the loudest that all First Nations revel in a hockey tournament. Local arenas are humming away with teams from every community, including the far northern cuzzins, the Inuit, in 24-hour gaming. As just about every adult age category including cougar categories is mustered up with imports cropping up to bolster the team rosters.

Former NHLers occasionally pop up to fill in as the indiscreet goalie or on defence. Some grumble about it, but hockey fever is too strong in this universe and the games are underway. As the tradition goes, no alcoholic drinks are served and make for a very sportsmanship attitude. The tournament is nearly a rite of passage for young hockey players and a tradition for the seasoned veterans. After all, this tournament has been around for quite awhile.

For the ladies, broomball is the ultimate way to show off strength and take off the edge off. I hear that the best teams come from Eeyou Istchee, with Wemindji winning the world tournament a month or so ago. Nope, broomball is no longer a venting system, it is world-class action here folks! Im proud to pronounce it on my resume, residing in the territory that breeds world champions!

The old timers are still up for entertainment value as the very visible puck is somehow missed or the aging goalie cant do his splits without having an emergency first response team nearby. Some tournaments end up taking out the spectators as fodder for the emergency room at the nearby hospital, as it tends to get a little rowdy come championship time or some favourite underdog team is badly losing so things can go sour.

Anyways, back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where the night never rests and the sunwell, you know.

A few days later, around five in the morning, the tired teams make their way to the elimination rounds before the final game featuring the top two teams facing off at centre ice. The puck drops and the crowd roars. As the game gets serious, the crowd boos and cheers wildly anticipating a goal that doesnt come. Its obvious who the favourite team is as the broomball teams do double duty as cheerleading squads to get the crowd going.

The buzzer goes off and its a tight game with a goal for each team. The Zamboni drones around, clearing the debris tossed by the capacity crowd at the Centre Air Creebec. The puck drops again and 40 minutes and several penalties later, the game is still tied at two each.

Its back to the dressing room for a quick lace tightening and an impassioned speech from the coach before returning to the ice. The crowd is super excited and eventually the winning goal creates a time out for the desperate home team (and crowd favourite) as the coach pulls the goalie. The winning goal is in jeopardy and the crowd cant hold its excitement and no one can hear a thing over all the booing and cheering. I wont tell you the ending because youd be reading this by the tourney ends and already know the outcome.

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