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Lebret Eagles Begin Fourth Season In SJHL

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      DECEMBER 1996      v26 n01 p32  
The success of the Lebret Eagles began when they made it to the playoffs in their first season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL). In their second year, they outdid the previous record, advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Last year, the team finished first in the league but was defeated in the sixth of seven games in the semi-finals.

Eagles President Noel Starblanket says this year will be even better. "In the four years, this is the best talent we've seen."

Starblanket and two of his friends, Morley Watson and Vern Bellegarde, started the team in 1992. Starblanket says that they had been travelling around the province the year before supporting other hockey teams when they began to notice "a sprinkling of native hockey players in the league." They reasoned that if Aboriginal hockey players could attain junior 'A' hockey excellence, then putting them together on a single team would give Aboriginal people something to be proud of.

In their first year, the Eagles had players from across Canada and North America. First Nations, Metis and Inuit hockey players have all been features of the Eagles. This trend to multiculturalism has continued, and the team now has players from Sweden and Russia as well.

Because the age requirement is 16-20 years, many of the players attend classes at White Calf Collegiate. Starblanket says the situation is ideal because of its proximity to the arena, The Eagledome. However, he stresses that while hockey is important, education does come first. Players must have good grades to go along with their talent. This appears to be the case since between seven and eight Eagle players have received full scholarships to play hockey in the United States.

Starblanket and the Eagles also believe in giving back to the community. "We believe that the success of the program comes from us getting involved in the community and the community getting involved with us." The players visit schools and talk to the youths about a variety of topics including drug and alcohol abuse and how to achieve excellence.

All of the community programs are encouraged by Director of Hockey Operations and Eagles Head Coach Doug Hedley. Hedley, whose background is in education, knows how to relate to youth and motivates the players to achieve their full potential.

The Lebret Eagles are already off to a great start this season. Fans can catch their games in person at the Eagledome, on the local Yorkton radio station or via satellite with TV Northern Canada.

Lebret Eagles team photo Back Row: Coach Doug Hedley, Jason Bird, John Hewitt, Shane Campbell, Franz Arildsson, Bill Cameron, Tobias Svensson, Tom Johnston, Mike Moran, Assist. Coach Don Chesney. Middle Row: Cory Bast, Earl Keewatin, Christian Schroder, Davy Caldwell, Jerry Cunningham, Brian Tucker, Robert Cardinal, Morris Elderkin, Vinny Jonasson. Front Row: Jarrod Bull, Aaron Sparvier, Jeff Peddigrew, Shane Watson, Charles Keshane, Scotty Lewis, Adam Piri.