Gayle Payette makes history as first Indigenous person elected to Hockey Federation

Gayle Payette, right, of M’Chigeeng First Nation was elected to the Ontario Hockey Federation board of directors.

M’CHIGEENG—Gayle Payette, of M’Chigeeng First Nation, has made history by being elected to the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF) board of directors.

“I am the first Indigenous person elected to the board,” stated Ms. Payette. “Being the first Indigenous person on the board means a lot to me. Two other ladies were recently elected to the board, which shows that the OHF is becoming even more progressive.”

Ms. Payette said she had been asked if she would like to be on the OHF board and when she indicated she would, was then nominated. “I think I have a good foundation of grassroots hockey and a good knowledge of how things are run. And to me, it’s giving a voice to local minor hockey associations and brings some cultural diversity as well as my knowledge.”

“I will be able to share my knowledge and give my all to hockey, especially from a grassroots perspective,” said Ms. Payette who was one of four new directors who were added to the OHF board at the group’s annual general meeting in Toronto on June 24.

Ms. Payette has served as the second vice-president of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) since 2020, “I have to officially resign from the NOHA board,” she said, explaining she had one more year remaining in that three-year position.

Ms. Payette had originally been nominated to the OHF board in 2021 and it was recently that she had been asked if she still wanted her name to stand for nomination. She then had to undertake an interview.

As has been reported previously, Ms. Payette became involved with the sport back in 1994 as the secretary of the Manitoulin Minor Hockey Association.

One area in which Ms. Payette is looking to make a contribution as a OHF board member is in the recruiting and retention of officials, players and volunteers. “It seems the number of officials and volunteers, especially in hockey throughout Ontario, has declined over the past few years and not just because of COVID. And sometimes it is hard to enhance our officiating program. We are doing all of this for the players. If you keep them on the ice, you keep them out of trouble and they develop and gain more friends.” She wants to investigate why numbers seem to be declining provincially.

“We oversee every development program, taking part in various OHF-sanctioned hockey development programs and assisting with provincial championships, for rep levels, A, AA, and provide scholarship bursaries. Board members are also expected to sit on some OHF committees and take part in special initiatives,” said Ms. Payette. She will serve a two-year term on the OHF board.