Forty players competed to make the bantam boys’ hockey team at the Arctic Winter Games trial last weekend in Inuvik, with about half making the cut.
“All the kids are working hard and battling hard,” said Shawn Talbot, who will be coaching the team, midway through the three-day evaluation camp, which brought in players from around the territory to compete for a spot on the team.
“The evaluators are going to have a real tough time trying to pick a team. The kids are working hard to get themselves in there.”
The best players have the best shot of making the team, but more comes into it than skill, he said.
“Attitude, behaviour on and off the ice, kids that are going to buy into the total program, which isn’t just what we do on the ice but nutrition, hydration and getting themselves mentally ready and physically ready to compete,” said Talbot. “All those little things come into it as well, but generally speaking the best kids live by those rules already anyway.”
Assistant coach RJ Carr said hockey knowledge and skating tend to be the biggest factors separating players. Both he and Talbot admit building team chemistry for a short tournament with players from around the territory can be a challenge.
“Even this weekend, we’ve encouraged the kids to get to know each other,” said Carr. “Don’t just hang out with the kids from your community. Go out and meet the other kids.”
A preparation camp before the AWGs in March 2018 will help familiarize players with each other before the tournament.
Carolyn Hunter, president of the Inuvik Minor Hockey Association, was happy to see the buzz at the rink last weekend, which also included a separate coaching clinic.
“The health of hockey in Inuvik is great,” she said. “Our numbers are up again this year, higher than they’ve been in many years.”
The new Inuvik Tuktoyaktuk Highway means some players are coming down each weekend to participate in the IMHA’s programming in Inuvik.
“We’re becoming a regional centre for hockey and that’s something we really want to be,” said Hunter.
Concurrent evaluation camps for the midget and girls’ AWG teams were held last weekend in Yellowknife and Fort Smith, respectively.