Although I have shared my thoughts on the matter here and there in past columns found in this space, it would be impossible for me to attend a grand opening like the once I witnessed last weekend for the new Rankin Inlet arena and not write about it.
Although not a sell-out (it was pretty darn close), it’s been a long, long time since I experienced such a sense of community as what was evident in that new building on Nov. 23.
If there was one person present who wasn’t grinning from ear to ear, smiling at every face they saw and shaking hands a plenty, I did not see them.
And why not?
As I reminisced with a few people last week over a meeting we attended in one of the salons at the Siniktarvik Hotel some 21 years ago – getting this new arena trailed only a road to Manitoba (dare we dream) on the wish lists our community leaders have been fighting the good fight to obtain during the past few decades.
And, the heck with all those out there who snicker when Rankin Inlet is described as Hockey Town, or when someone speaks publicly about how much the game of hockey means to the community.
We got here without you and we will continue to love our game, cheer for our teams, support their various fundraising efforts, and enjoy that sense of community that surrounds every one of the major tournaments hosted by this community – only now we’ll get to do all those things in comfort, warmth and style.
There is nothing more special about the North than the sense of community you have to feel for yourself to know and appreciate the fact it really still does exist in this day and age.
And, let’s be honest about this, much to the contrary of what some people would have you believe, Rankin Inlet does not get more than its fair share of projects from governments at the territorial and federal levels.
In fact, if the cold, hard truth is to be discussed, Rankin gets far less than what a community of its size and importance to the territory as a transportation hub would dictate.
So the community really doesn’t get a heck of a lot of opportunities to celebrate throughout each year, so it does it in style when the opportunity presents itself.
I would love to have a $5 bill for every story told and memory sparked over the development of hockey in Rankin Inlet that I have heard during the past week.
From practicing on Williamson Lake to prepare for upcoming tournaments in other communities, to ‘the good old days’ of Rankin’s infamous Dome, just about everyone had a story to tell from the past that put smiles on the faces of everyone listening.
Mayor Harry Towtongie was bang-on during the grand opening when he said the new arena will play a large role in the community of Rankin Inlet’s ongoing efforts to have more hockey players from this area’s postal code follow Jordin Tootoo through the hallowed gates leading to the NHL.
And, if I were a betting man, my money would be on Tootoo being the first of many to one day realize their dreams and lace ’em up to play in the show.
I admit to being a little proud of the hockey that’s been played in Rankin Inlet, and by players from this community winning championship banners elsewhere, as the afternoon of the grand opening unfolded around me this past Saturday.
And why not?
This was a grand moment for Rankin hockey and the love for the game this community has, which is second to none.
So, please forgive us if our pride was showing during the unveiling of this wonderful new facility for Rankin.
The community earned the right to have it and, hopefully, we’ll be celebrating inside its wonderful walls for many years to come.