Saskatoon-based Indigenous hockey academy preparing to add teams

Tuesday, February 27th, 2024 12:04pm


By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Saskatoon-based Indigenous Sports Academy (ISA) is expanding.

And reps from the academy, which is the only all-Indigenous program in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL), are already planning ahead for even further expansion.

The ISA was granted a male prep Under-17 squad back in the spring of 2022.

It was announced earlier this month that the CSSHL will add a total of 14 new clubs for the 2024-25 campaign. It currently features 111 teams across Canada and in the states of Idaho and Washington.

One of those 14 new teams will be the ISA’s male prep Under-18 team.

Courage Bear, ISA’s director of hockey operations, said both the Under-17 and Under-18 squads will feature 22 players each next season.

Those individuals will be selected after the ISA stages its showcase tryouts on May 25 and May 26 in Saskatoon.
“We’re hoping we get 100 to about 130 players trying out,” Bear said. “That would be our goal. But we’ll see.”

Bear said ISA representatives are looking even further into the future. They are hoping to eventually add a female team to its program in the coming years.

“That’s the next logical step,” Bear said. “The timing of that will be dictated by our branch.”

The majority of those that compete in the CSSHL have to be first granted a team via their provincial hockey association.

For the ISA, that would be Hockey Saskatchewan.

Bear is keen to point out that Indigenous male teens from across the country are eligible to try out for the two ISA clubs.

He’s hoping elite players from across the country consider suiting up for the two ISA teams next season.

“I hope we get them from all over,” he said of the players. “This program is not just for kids from Saskatchewan.”

Bear said 15 of the current players on ISA’s Under-17 club are eligible to return to the program with the Under-17 squad. The remaining players are eligible for a spot with the new Under-18 squad.

Bear insists that none of the existing ISA players are guaranteed positions on program teams for next season.

“We want to make sure that the perception isn’t that they will automatically be moved up,” he said.

Bear also said program representatives will be attending various upcoming tournaments across Canada and scouting for potential players.

Events that will be scouted include the Little Native Hockey League tournament, which runs March 11 to March 14 in Markham, Ont., as well as the Alberta Native provincial championships, set for April 4 to April 7 in Edmonton.

Those part of the ISA program all attend Estey School in Saskatoon. The school, which features students in Grades 6 to 12, features a FLEX program.

It allows students who are furthering their athletic or artistic careers to have a flexible schedule during regular school hours.

For those in the ISA hockey program, school days consist of on-ice training sessions, usually four to five days a week. The program also includes off-ice sessions that focus on improving skills on the ice, fitness, nutrition, leadership and hockey IQ.

Since it is the only all-Indigenous program in the CSSHL, the ISA has received plenty of press since its inception.

TSN made a docuseries about the academy titled Breaking Down Barriers.

ISA’s main goal is to develop student/athletes that will move up and play in junior hockey ranks or at the collegiate level.

Bear said four ISA alumni have advanced on to Junior A squads while several others have cracked the rosters of Junior B teams.

More information on the ISA is available at