REGINA - The opportunity for First Nations youth to get a cutting edge in hockey is becoming a reality.

"It transcends culture,” said Tyadg McGauley, president of OM Hockey Systems. “It is our culture. Canada I always say is a young country and Canadian values to me mirror hockey values."

After playing professional hockey in Sweden and Japan, McGauley wanted to give back to the hockey community. The limited access Indigenous youth had to on ice training in the province caught his attention.

"I met a guy named Aaron Nahnepowisk, he's an ex-councilman for Piapot First Nation and his son was out there on the free ice as well," said McGauley. "One of things he told me was that there was a lack of development for First Nations. We always talked about one day having a summer program."

That vision became a reality. McGauley runs a 48-hour program in Regina that began in 2017 expanding from seven kids to more than 20 in 2019. McGauley centres his program based around his OM hockey apparatus. The patent McGauley created encourages his students to improve puck management, control and independence on ice.

"Obstacle-based training means that the obstacle is the trainer. The advantage of obstacle based development is to go around the obstacle, the player must do it the perfect way because if they can't they won’t be able to go through the obstacle so they self-correct to go through. When a player self-corrects instead of getting that external correction the development is exponential."

McGauley says his program strays away from the past archaic forms of hockey development and is unlike football, basketball and soccer based on the technology involved.

"I would say hockey is a mystery," said McGauley. "It is a very subtle game out there, I think when people look at hockey they don’t realize that it’s an obstacle based game. You have bodies, sticks, skates flying at 20, 25 miles per hour and not a lot of people train on obstacle based development programs. That’s why we developed OM Hockey Systems."

McGauley says the accessibility of the OM apparatus could allow for First Nations across the province to train with the device reducing the need to drive to a major market to train. McGauley says his camp helps build self-esteem within the minds of each student and helps transition them to be better leaders in the community.

"This summer was my third year in the program," said Rheanne Peigan, a resident of Fort Qu’Appelle, who plays in NCAA Division III at Marian University in Wisconsin. "I really felt that Tyadg improved my hockey IQ because I saw the ice better. I was able to perform more things quicker and faster because of what we did in Tyadg’s camp."

Rheanne Peigan has trained with OM Hockey Systems for three years in Regina. The resident of Fort Qu’Appelle has advanced to the NCAA Division III league at Marian University in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. (Courtesy Rheanne Peigan/Marian University)

"For us we see it as a way to bridge so to speak between cultures," said McGauley. "Frankly we believe it's something that First Nations were born to do."

Over the last few years, McGauley has seen players go from averaging zero to one point per game and transition from fourth to first line play after training in his camp.

He hopes he can expand the development camp to Saskatoon and northern Saskatchewan to give more Indigenous athletes the opportunity to grow.