An Olympic speedskater, an award-winning cross-country skier and one of the best biathlon coaches there ever was.
Those are the kind of people who are part of the NWT Sport Hall of Fame’s class of 2017.
The hall’s sixth annual induction ceremony happened at the Elks Hall on Nov. 4 with Michael Gilday, Antoine Mountain and the late Pat Bobinski joining the other NWT sporting legends in immortality.
Speedskater Gilday needs no introduction to those who have followed his career. He is the greatest speedskater ever produced in the North with several years of experience on the Canadian men’s national team between 2005 and 2014. He set a new world record in 2007 in the men’s 1,000-metre that has since been broken, as well as racing at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Before that, he was busy dominating at the Arctic Winter Games level, winning 15 gold ulus in three separate appearances between 2000 and 2004.
Antoine Mountain, originally from Fort Good Hope, was also inducted into the athlete category. Mountain is a graduate of the vaunted Territorial Experimental Ski Training (TEST) Program, which was started by the late Father Jean-Marie Mouchet, who is also in the hall in the builder category.
Mountain described being part of the program as a way to physically escape the stress of residential school but he turned that into a successful cross-country skiing career, which saw him race at the inaugural Canada Winter Games in 1967.
He was also named as a winner of the Ton Longboat Medal that year, which is given to outstanding Indigenous athletes, something he admitted he knew nothing about until he received it.
“We started out with old army skis and we used broken hockey sticks for poles,” he said, of how he started. “The thing about Father Mouchet was he already recognized that our people, living outdoors, growing up pretty well outdoors on the land, we could identify readily with this particular Nordic sport.”
Bobinski entered the hall in the builders category thanks to his decades of service to the sport of biathlon. He was president of the NWT Biathlon Association for many years and was also instrumental in training and coaching many of the territory’s top biathletes, including Brendan Green of Hay River, a two-time Olympian.
Paul Green, Brendan’s brother, is originally from Hay River but makes his home in Yellowknife. He accepted the honour on behalf of Bobinski, who died earlier this year.
In his speech, Green said he couldn’t think of a better way to describe Bobinski than as a builder.
“I’ve been thinking about it and I think a builder is a really apt description for Pat and the contributions he made to the sport of biathlon,” he said. “He took people to the Arctic Winter Games, national championships and the Olympics and that is a part of his legacy. And even beyond that as a part of the outreach programs, he would basically take rifles and snowshoes to these communities that didn’t have any sort of an existing ski or biathlon programs, which a lot of kids partook in.”