Hard work and respect are keys to improving, says athlete of the year
Darrell Greer | CHESTERFIELD INLET
November 19, 2014
Kenneth John (KJ) Putulik of Chesterfield Inlet is taking his hockey journey one step at a time.
Putulik, 19, took a few days away from his Onion Lake Border Chiefs team in Saskatchewan to accept Nunavut’s Male Athlete of the Year award in Iqaluit earlier this month.
The amicable young defenceman, who was awarded his school’s first Integrity Award this past June, said winning the award was a cool experience.
He said he wasn’t aware he was in the running for the award until he received an e-mail from Kerby Corcoran of Nunavut’s Sport and Recreation Division.
“He told me I won the award and asked me about coming North to accept it,” said Putulik. “I told him I could probably go, but I wouldn’t be able to pay for everything, so they (Sport and Recreation Division) paid to get me to Iqaluit for the ceremony.”
Putulik said hockey in the North Eastern Alberta Junior B League is fast.
He said the team plays or practises almost every day of the week.
“We play against some pretty big guys, and they’re pretty tough. But I find the league fun and really competitive. I played a lot of full-contact hockey in the past, but not really on a steady basis.
“You get used to playing full-contact hockey every day, and it really gets you motivated to do well.”
Putulik took a job at a lumber yard in Onion Lake this past week to provide some income during the season.
He said this is his first year in junior, so he’s totally focused on becoming a better player so he can take his game to the next level.
“I really want to see if I can make a junior A team next season. I knew it would be better for me to start in junior B and work on my game before trying to take a step up.”
Putulik said he isn’t taking any studies in Onion Lake because he has to keep his focus on hockey this year.
He said it’s the first time he’s lived so far from home without his parents, but, so far, things are going well.
“It’s a big adjustment and it’s actually pretty hard for the first few weeks.
“But you get used to it, and look forward to the next holiday so you can see your parents, family and friends.”
Putulik said his teammates have welcomed him onto the Chiefs team.
In fact, he said, many of them have been quite interested in how Inuit live and how he was noticed and invited to try for the Chiefs.
“They’re a good group of people here who give you a lot of respect, so I’ve grown to like it. I started to get noticed at the Arctic Winter Games, and was then selected to Team North in the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship. John Chabot of Hit The Ice noticed me and I was selected to its two week training camp, where the coach for Onion Lake saw me and asked me to join his team.
“Working hard and having respect for people go a long way, and, if hockey’s what you want to do, you have to work hard because nobody’s just going to hand it to you.”