Hockey night in the North ended with a golden moment on Friday, when Nunavut’s male hockey team captured the territory’s first gold in hockey at the Arctic Winter Games.
Team Nunavut ended its final game against Alaska 4-1.
Seventeen-year-old Sandy Tattuinee, who got an assist in the game, called the win a “surreal moment” and said he was thinking of his sisters, his family and his friends back home when the game came to a close.
“It means, like, everything to me, representing my hometown, Nunavut,” he said. ‘It’s, like, unreal.”
The CBC’s George Maratos was at the game, held at Centrefire Place, which is home to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.
“You can imagine these young players, some of them only 15, 16, coming out and getting all the bells and whistles that come with a normal home game, including the PA announcer, the light show and the fans,” he said.
“I mean, the players didn’t take any shifts off, but neither did the fans, especially the Nunavut fans — they were relentless, and so were the players on the ice.”
‘A huge accomplishment’
The win has been a long time coming, according to Pujjuut Kusugak of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, who gave a play-by-play of the game in Inuktitut in a CBC livestream of the game.
“We’ve had a lot of close teams, but this team has been building up to this for probably 10, 12 years,” he said. “David Clark has put in so much time developing these young players, having them in tournaments, and then it peaked at the right time.”
“The biggest thing is that Nunavut now expects medals in hockey,” he said, “which would have never happened years ago. We’ve had two teams that won silver, but for us to expect medals in hockey — it’s a huge accomplishment for the amount of people we have, but also to the hockey programs we have in our communities, so a huge thanks to the coaches and minor hockey associations for putting in the time.”
As for the game itself, Kusugak said Nunavut was in control right from the beginning.
“Nunavut was all over Alaska,” he said. “They made it so hard for Alaska to even enter the zone. And even when they did, Nunavut came out with the puck, had control most of the game.”
Mary Tatty and Darren Ikakhik offered colour commentary on the game.
“The mayor of Arviat opened the community hall so that people could go watch the livestream,” Tatty said. “And it was packed.”
Ikakhik was a last-minute addition to the team. He admits he was nervous going in but ended up enjoying himself thoroughly.
“I’m pumped up,” Ikakhik said after the game. “I’m still feeling it. That was really cool to see and be a part of.”
Gregory Wiseman led the game in points with one goal and two assists. Kadin Eetuk, Michal Emiktowt and Prime Paniyuk also scored goals, with assists from Terence Pilakapsi, Ray Jr. Pudlat and Koby Connelly.
Team N.W.T. won bronze after beating Team Alberta North 5-4.
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