Dejah Howes and Tayla Lamabe reuniting at National Aboriginal Hockey Championship

Familiarity is a key theme when you look across Team Alberta’s Female roster at the 2024 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship this week (May 6-11) in Grande Prairie.

Of the 22 members named to Team Alberta’s roster, 10 of them were on the team last year that brought home the bronze medal. Two of the 10 returnees are Tayla Lamabe and Dejah Howes, who both play on the same club team in Edmonton with the U18 AAA Jr. Oilers White.

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The duo recently helped Edmonton to a bronze medal at the 2024 Esso Cup and are looking forward to getting back to playing together for Team Alberta.

“It’s great, Tayla is a teammate of mine in Edmonton and that team is so close and she’s probably one of the people on the team I’m closest to,” Howes said. “Especially playing with her last year, I think we have that chemistry and I think we can show people what good chemistry is within the team.”

“I met her at last year’s tournament,” Lamabe said. “She was there to support me and help me understand more about the tournament. Then being able to play with her this year, we got a lot closer. I look up to her like an older sister and I’m excited to share this experience with her again.”

The Aboriginal Sport Circle established the NAHC in 2002 to serve as the premiere competition for young Indigenous hockey players in Canada. The annual event attracts participation from First Nation, Inuit, and Metis across the 13 provinces and territories, and helps foster cultural unity and pride to celebrate the athletic abilities of Indigenous players.

Hockey Alberta, in partnership with the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta, coordinates the selection process for the players and coaches representing the province at the championships.

Lamabe, who has a Métis background, and Howes, who is Inuit, are both very proud of their heritage.

“I knew I was Indigenous. I’m Inuit, so I’ve learned a lot through my parents, and my mom was the one who introduced me to trying out for this tournament,” said Howes. “But going through this tournament has showed me ways I can connect and learn more about myself and my culture. I just think that’s so cool, and I think it connects everybody on the team a lot, just having that in common, especially if other people are also learning about those things, we can do it together.”

“Growing up in Peace River, I got a lot of opportunities and a lot of different ways to join in with Aboriginal activities,” Lamabe added. “Last year I had the chance to do ribbon skirt making and learning more about that. This tournament really gives Aboriginal athletes a chance to relate to that and I find that super cool and interesting.”

Games will be played at Design Works Centre, home of the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm. Alberta has never won a gold medal at this event, but they will get the chance to in front of the home crowd.

“Oh, it’d mean the world to me, honestly, especially with last year, and how close we came. I think winning bronze was a step in the right direction, but being able to bring home gold, it just kind of be the cherry on top,” Howes said. “Playing on the team last year, it’s kind of like, ‘okay, this is where we’re going to start and now, we got to go that step further.’ If I’m able to be a part of that group and be part of the team who finally does it, I think it would be amazing.”

All games are being streamed on YouTube.

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The team’s full schedule can be found below:

Team Alberta Female NAHC schedule
May 6 Team Alberta vs Team British Columbia W (2-1)
May 7 Team Alberta vs Eastern Door & North 11:00 A.M.
May 7 Team Alberta vs Team Manitoba 8:00 P.M.
May 8 Team Alberta vs Team Atlantic 11:15 A.M.
May 9 Female Qualifying Round TBD
May 10 Female Relegation Games TBD
May 10 Semi-Finals TBD
May 11 Bronze Medal Game 1:00 P.M.
May 11 Gold Medal Game 7:00 P.M.