Hockey teams have ‘common goal’ ahead of Games

Bantam boys' and girls' teams spend week testing home ice at Iqaluit training camp

Casey Lessard | Iqaluit
February 22, 2016
2902hck$1.jpg Casey Lessard/NNSL photo The girls' and bantam boys' hockey teams gathered in Iqaluit for a week-long mid-February training camp ahead of the 2016 Nuuk Arctic Winter Games. Iqaluit will host the hockey tournament.

Casey Lessard/NNSL photo
The girls’ and bantam boys’ hockey teams gathered in Iqaluit for a week-long mid-February training camp ahead of the 2016 Nuuk Arctic Winter Games. Iqaluit will host the hockey tournament.

Some of the hockey players representing Nunavut weren’t even born the last time the territory had home ice advantage at the Arctic Winter Games.

But after a week training at Iqaluit’s Arctic Winter Games Arena, the girls’ and bantam boys’ and teams will head into the tournament more comfortable as the hockey hosts.

“It’s very exciting,” said Tapisa Tattuinee of Arviat, who played hockey at the 2014 AWG in Fairbanks, Alaska. “You’re just so happy to be part of the team to represent our territory.”

Girls’ coach Shauna Beaton of Iqaluit said the week was important to give Nunavut an edge.

“They’re familiar with the ice, and we’ve just had a solid week here,” Beaton said. “We were on the ice two or three times a day. They know how the boards react. When you’re going to a competition and a brand new arena, you have no idea how the puck will bounce. ”

The week also gave the players, who come from all over the territory, a final chance to gel as a team.

“We’re running a variety of practises, off-ice training, physical conditioning, classroom lessons, health lessons, to build a complete athlete,” said boys’ coach Ryan O’Connor of Arviat. “We’re hoping that by the end of this camp, it gives them the skill set and knowledge they need to be successful in a short-term competition, the Arctic Winter Games.”

“They’ve had different levels of coaching, different experience with these kinds of games,” added coach Conor Fudge, also of Arviat. “It was really good to get them together and instil those habits we wanted them to carry forward into the Games. They weren’t too happy about some of the things we wanted them to do, some of the breaking of old habits and starting new ones health-wise and with bed times, but if you talk to them now, they’ve really bought in. We have a common goal here now.”

Iglulik’s Monica Qattalik, a student at Nunavut Arctic College in Iqaluit, is a senior member of the team, having competed for Nunavut in Whitehorse in 2012 and in Fairbanks. She’ll be sharing the ice with teammates as young as 12.

“We come from all over Nunavut, and we play together for a week before the games, which is pretty hard,” Qattalik said. “We need the team vibe. Get to know each other’s plays. If we get that down, we’ve got the talent and skill to play a good game.”

Girls’ coach Steve Paterson of Baker Lake said it’s hard to get that team vibe when the players are spread out across Canada’s largest territory.

“That’s why this week is so important, not only for the skill and team systems, but for the team bonding,” Paterson said. “They arrived on Sunday as 17 individuals and they played Tuesday as 17 individuals, and we played last night and today (Sunday) as one team. That’s the most important factor in playing in competition.”
But weather plays a big role, too. Bad weather caused Paterson to miss the November training camp and to be late to this camp.

“Even getting out today is complicated,” Beaton said. Fudge noted that some players have to travel two days to get to Iqaluit on a good day.

But Paterson said it will all be worth it to play in front of Nunavummiut.

“We’re playing at home, we get a home crowd,” he said. “Regardless of the score, win, lose, or draw, we’re playing for the fans in the stands and to inspire younger females watching those games to pick up hockey and have a dream of representing their territory some day.”