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Ethan Bear and Devin Buffalo took different paths to professional hockey — showing youth options


Kyle Muzyka · CBC News · Posted: Oct 03, 2018 5:00 AM ET | Last Updated: October 3

Ethan Bear and Devin Buffalo are part of the new contingent of young professional hockey players of Indigenous descent. (Andy Devlin/Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics)

Ethan Bear remembers seeing looks of contempt on some people's faces while he was playing hockey. At the time, Bear, from Ochapowace First Nation in southern Saskatchewan, didn't think much of it.

"I thought it was just people being rude," Bear said.

But as he grew older and started to understand the stereotypes Indigenous people face both on and off the ice, the looks started to make more sense.

"You get those looks for sure," he said.

"The lazy, not hardworking [stereotype], that's definitely one of them. But that's definitely not the case."

Bear, who turned 21 in June, will start the season with the Edmonton Oilers after he was called up to replace an injured Andrej Sekera.

Bear played his early hockey in Ochapowace First Nation in Saskatchewan up until peewee, when he played more competitive hockey in the surrounding communities before heading to Kelowna, B.C., and then Seattle, in the Western Hockey League.

Edmonton Oilers' Ethan Bear (74) celebrates his first NHL goal against the Anaheim Ducks during third period NHL action in Edmonton on March 25. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A self-described rink rat, Bear found his passion for hockey early on with the influence of his older brother, Everett. The stereotype of Indigenous hockey players being lazy only pushed Bear to be at the rink even more.

"I think people put a certain stereotype on us because of the things they don't know or haven't learned yet," Bear said.

"You definitely do use it for motivation."

He looks up to players like Carey Price, Jordin Tootoo, Arron Asham, Brandon Montour and Michael Ferland — all of Indigenous descent.

"You know what the grind is like and what they've gone through," Bear said.

"They kind of cleared the path for me."

Now Bear is already trying to make a difference at home — he runs a hockey camp in Ochapowace during the summer for youth in the surrounding area.

"It's always nice when you're not the only First Nations person out there," Bear said.

'I made it into a positive'


Devin Buffalo, 25, originally from Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, Alta., recently signed his first professional contract with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

Before signing in South Carolina, Buffalo leveraged his talent as a goaltender into a degree from Dartmouth College, an Ivy League School in New Hampshire. In his final year, he was a finalist for the prestigious Hobey Baker award, given to the NCAA's top player.

Goalie wasn't Buffalo's first choice — "I actually hated playing goalie," he said — but his dad gave him goalie equipment and he found himself in the net on his novice team in Wetaskiwin, Alta.

Devin Buffalo is in his fourth and final year of hockey at Dartmouth College. (Dartmouth College Varsity Athletics)

Buffalo continued through to bantam but couldn't crack the nearest AAA squad in Leduc. He figures he had a size disadvantage with the other goalies he competed against, but said the stereotype of laziness was always in the back of his mind.

"That kind of blankets all Native players to these coaches when you go into these camps," Buffalo said.

"I think it is a barrier, but I made it into a positive."

Buffalo said Bear's success can be inspiring for many Indigenous youth across the country.

"If you see a Native player in Rogers Place on the blueline, it changes everything," Buffalo said.

"It starts dreams. That was always my dream — to show people where a Native hockey player could go and overcome these obstacles and stereotypes."


As Buffalo worked to surpass those barriers he faced growing up, he in turn paved the way for players like Kaedin Larocque-Wolfe.

'It wasn't as bad for me'

Larocque-Wolfe, a 15-year-old also from Maskwacis, just cracked the Leduc AAA team, the same team Buffalo struggled to make a few years before.

Growing up, Larocque-Wolfe said he didn't face the same types of barriers that other players had.

Larocque-Wolfe, right, attended the Edmonton Oil Kings rookie camp. His team ended up winning the tournament. (Submitted by Kyle Wolfe)

"For people it's different, but it wasn't as bad for me," he said.

"Playing in Maskwacis, you did experience some racism here and there in those little towns you went to, just playing against other teams. It obviously didn't make me feel good — it got me mad during games — but I think it just made me play better."

The players he looks up to are many of the same cited by Bear, as well as Buffalo.

"Just to see a fellow First Nations person playing in The Show, in the NHL, is amazing," he said.

And for players like Larocque-Wolfe, who are just starting their adult hockey journeys, looking at the different career paths of players like Bear and Buffalo can provide options — some of which may not have been otherwise visible.

Larocque-Wolfe attended the Edmonton Oil Kings WHL rookie camp this year. He also toured some Ivy League schools in Boston, looking at the options in the NCAA.

Bear said encouraging fellow Indigenous hockey players is an important part of the battle to curb the stereotypes.

"When no one wants you to succeed — it's like that movie Indian Horse, I can relate a lot to that — there's only so much you can do," Bear said.

"I think the best thing is to just try to pave the way for others, so it shows that we aren't what they think."


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15th Annual Stoney Creek Champions

By admin 09/25/2018, 12:45pm PDT

Congrats to our Female Prep team on a great start to their season, winning the 15th Annual Stoney Creek Tournament!

POE ALUMNI: Kopperud Commits to ASU

By admin 09/25/2018, 12:45pm PDT

This article about POE Alumni Matthew Kopperud was grabbed

The Centennials are proud to announce that forward Matthew Kopperud has earned himself a commitment from the Arizona State University Sun Devils.

Kopperud is in his second year with the Merritt Centennials and has found some early success scoring 4 goals and adding 4 assists through 7 games. Last season he compiled 9 goals and 8 assists over 40 games played. Before joining the Centennials Kopperud spent time with the Pursuit of Excellence program in the CSSHL and scored at a rate of 1.20 points-per-game.

Head Coach and General Manager says that despite the early success this year, this pact has been a couple years in the making.

“It goes back a couple years for Matt, he’s slowly gotten to know their staff. They’ve kept on him and done their homework, and Matt’s had a great start to the season, a really good summer, and has taken advantage of the ice time given to him. So it might seem quick, seem like it came out of nowhere, but they’ve had their eye on him for quite a while.”


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By admin 09/04/2018, 10:30am PDT

Victoria, BC – The Victoria Royals are proud to announce that they have signed 2002-born defenceman Carson Golder to a Western Hockey League (WHL) Standard Player Agreement.

The Terrace, BC product was listed to the Royals’ 50-man protected player list in June of this year. Each WHL team is allowed to protect 50 players, which includes individuals who have either been signed, drafted or listed by their respective club.

“Carson is a very good young player who has grown his game this past year and impressed us throughout training camp,” President and General Manager Cameron Hope said. “We are excited about his future and happy to have him join our organization.”

The 5-11, 187 lb blueliner spent last season with the Pursuit of Excellence (POE) Elite 15’s of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. Through 34 games with POE, Golder tallied 17 points (8g-9a) and 22 penalty minutes. He finished the regular season as POE’s highest scoring defenceman. Golder was also called up to POE’s Midget Prep team where he registered three points (1g-2a) in eight contests.

During the 2016-17 season, Golder recorded seven goals and five assists and 18 minutes in penalties in 19 games with POE’s Bantam Varsity team.


See full article here

Donate to the Roop Johal Memorial Scholarship

By admin 08/10/2018, 11:30am PDT

Please help us in supporting the Roop Johal Memorial Scholarship. 

Roop is connected to us through our long time premier goaltending coach Eli Wilson. Below is a description of the scholarship and a link to donate. 

This scholarship has been created to assist children in pursuit of youth hockey across Canada. It has been named after Roop Johal, an enthusiastic hockey mom. Her belief was every child deserved the same opportunity to excel regardless of their circumstance. She has volunteered countless hours through different hockey organizations to support youth hockey. Her efforts have been extended to her son Roman who is currently a goaltender for the Kelowna Rockets.

In honor of the life of Roop Johal, we would like to accept donations in lieu of flowers to contribute to youth in their pursuit of excellence in hockey.


Click here to donate

Teaching the Chinese Canada’s game at EOE

By Admin 08/10/2018, 11:15am PDT

It’s a country where table tennis is the national sport, but hockey is growing in China and some of that growth has an Okanagan connection.

For three years in a row, 12 players from the Shanghai Warriors have come to Kelowna in the pursuit of excellence.

While hockey is growing in most populated country in the world, it is still not as big as it in Canada.

“In Shanghai, it’s just easier. Here, it’s just more competitive,” said Shanghai Warrior Dawson Yu.


“It’s not the most popular sport, but a pretty decent amount of people play it,” said Shanghai Warrior Jarvis Lee.

There is one similarity, however.

“I want to be an NHL player,” said Lee.

It seems dreams of playing in the big league are all the same, no matter where you are from. But learning the game on its home ice is only one part of the experience for the visiting players from China.

“Hockey is only one of the things that we would like our kids to participate in and learn, but I think more importantly is to, through this experience, get something for their growth for their lives,” said organizer and parent Jason Lee.

Exactly why the same families have come three years in row with their young hockey players in tow to the Okanagan’s Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy.

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With the greatest heartfelt compassion, all of us at POE “suffer together” along with the rest of our nation as we grieve for the families, the relatives and close friends of the young men whose lives came to such an abrupt end in the bus accident last week. The essence of compassion is the sincere desire to take action to help the families get through their pain which we cannot really even begin to comprehend. The question is always how can we help more and the answer is, that unless we are very close personally to the families, usually our actions consist of surrounding them with prayer, words of love and encouragement, financial support, and sharing our respect through gatherings as we are today.

However, there is more we can do. Think long term not just short term in response to this horrendous tragedy. Think of the love and caring and pain all of you and the whole nation is feeling for all of these families and their boys which is so important at this time. My question to all of us, as players, coaches, staff, and as an Academy is, why can’t we demonstrate the same kind of compassion and caring every day to our teammates, each other, and everyone we come in contact with for the rest of our lives? Obviously, our daily encounters are not in any way a comparison to the losses and pain these families are going through. However, if our players, who have shown so much compassion and caring for these families, tomorrow go back to the rink, go back to bullying some of their teammates, or being disrespectful to some of their teachers, their siblings or parents. If we as coaches and staff don’t demonstrate to our parents and players the compassion and understanding and positive discipline our young players need in order to develop character and self worth, then we and the world remain the same, nothing really has changed.

God has given everyone of us the innate capacity to experience compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings, as is clearly evident through being touched by the Humboldt tragedy. But in terms of our day to day lives and interactions with others, this capacity to care gets diminished or hardened primarily because we are selfish and have large egos. Everyone has their own experience but to be blunt and honest, the only way I have ever in my life found the strength to change my heart (and believe me I am still along way away from being the person God wants me to be) is through developing a relationship with Christ. I am not pushing my faith on anyone. I am trying to be honest. But if you are like me, we are weak human beings who need a strength outside ourselves in order not only to become caring, empathetic, and compassionate, but also in order to face the challenges and difficulties we all face throughout our life time. There has never been, in the history of mankind, a person that has walked this earth who was more selfless, humble, and compassionate than Jesus Christ.

So, as we move forward from today and look to the future, I am saying to all of us at POE, players, parents, coaches and staff, we cannot be the same tomorrow. However, you derive your strength to change, to exercise your capacity of compassion and caring for others, to become more selfless and humble, it has to been done and often that is not easy in our world of hockey.

Hopefully, in addition to what we have tried to do as individuals and as an Academy, the inspiration of the lives of these amazing young men and their families will live on at least in a small way through the changes we make in our own lives and in the Academy to become more caring and compassion to those in our hockey community and in the world around us, and to ensure our players have the opportunity to develop a faith that will provide the strength and peace to get them through the challenges they will face in life.

2018 BDO CSSHL Playoff Championship Recap

By admin 04/08/2018, 4:15pm PDT

Below is a list of all the awards won by POE players at the BDO CSSHL 2018 Championships. Congratulations to all of the winners!


Midget Prep All-Academic Team

Nick Cherkowski, Pursuit of Excellence


Female Prep All-Academic Team

Meadow Carman, Pursuit of Excellence


Midget Varsity All-Academic Team

Ethan Wong, Pursuit of Excellence


Elite 15 All-Academic Team

Justin Nakagawa, Pursuit of Excellence


Bantam Prep All-Academic Team

Luca Grabas, Pursuit of Excellence


Bantam Varsity All-Academic Team

Jacob Rausch, Pursuit of Excellence

Brett Boucher, Pursuit of Excellence


Female Prep Freshman of the Year: 

Anne Cherkowski (Coldstream, BC), Pursuit of Excellence


Elite 15 Most Sportsmanlike: 

Wallace Sonntag (South Lake Tahoe, CA), Pursuit of Excellence


Also our Female Prep team won their playoff championship.


Stephanie Markowski (Edmonton, AB) scored twice and setup two others as the Pursuit of Excellence captured the 2018 Canadian Sport School Hockey League Female Prep Championship with a 6-3 win over the Okanagan Hockey Academy on Thursday afternoon.

Female Prep Freshman of the Year Anne Cherkowski (Coldstream, BC) added a goal and three assists, while Dara Greig (Lethbridge, AB) chipped in with a goal and two helpers.

Pursuit jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes and then held a 4-2 lead going in to the final frame.

Ava Thewes (Clarkston, MI) made 23 saves to record the win between the pipes for Pursuit, while Danielle Serdachny (Edmonton, AB) and Jordan Mortlock (Medicine Hat, AB) rounded out the scoring.

Reece Hunt (Nelson, BC) factored in on all three Okanagan goals, finishing with a goal and two assists, while Megan Wilson (Calgary, AB) and Kailee Skinner (Penticton, BC) each added a power-play marker.

See the full article on the BDO CSSHL Championship website

Prayers for Humboldt

By admin 04/07/2018, 6:00pm PDT

Our thoughts, hearts, and prayers go out to the boys on the bus and their families. Tragic.

Every person on this planet desperately needs a Rock in their lives and it becomes so evident at incredibly difficult times like this.

Absolutely, we need the love and support of our family, friends, and our fellow human beings... but we also need that strength outside ourselves, a peace that is beyond our understanding, a comfort that gives us the hope of eternity and a love larger than life that gets us through the next day. He is with all of you.

Dave Roy and all our staff at POE

Here is where you can donate to the families effected by this event:

The West Kelowna Warriors Junior ‘A’ Hockey Club  announced that defenseman Jake Harrison (’99) has committed to the University of Michigan Wolverines for the 2019/20 season.

Harrison, 18, is a veteran of 164 regular season BCHL games, tallying 18 goals and 83 points during his two and a half seasons in the league to go along with 177 penalty minutes. In 56 games during the 2017/18 regular season, the 5’9”, 170-pound blue liner has registered 8 goals and 33 points along with 94 penalty minutes.

The West Kelowna, BC native has plenty of playoff experience as well, getting into 39 total playoff games between the BC Hockey League, Western Canada Cup and RBC Cup, scoring 3 goals and 13 points to go along with 12 penalty minutes.

“Jake has been a great player here from day one,” commented Warriors head coach and general manager Rylan Ferster, “He played key minutes for us when we won the RBC Cup and that hasn’t changed over the last two seasons. His competitive nature is what makes him special.”

“It’s a great opportunity for me to head to Michigan and pursue my hockey career and academic career with the Wolverines,” commented Warriors defenseman Jake Harrison.

The Michigan Wolverines play out of the BIG 10 conference in the National Colligate Athletic Association (NCAA) and are coached by Mel Pearson, who is in his first season at the helm after coaching in Michigan Tech. The Wolverines are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan and play in the famous Yost Ice Arena.

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