Inuvik’s Midnight Sun Complex was bustling with activity for four days as the IRC Native Hockey Tournament hit the ice at full tilt March 5-8.
In total, 14 teams from as far away as Deline came out to compete in the two-tiered battle of the Beaufort. Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, Inuvik, Fort McPherson and Paulatuk— which fundraised $30,000 to get their players on the ice, sent teams for the 32nd Battle of the Beaufort Delta.
“The officials come up from Yellowknife through Hockey Canada,” said organizer Wilma Hendrick, who has run the tournament with her husband Donny for 22 years. “Guys just either throw a team together or they work together and enter in either division.’A’ division is more of a stronger division, whereas ‘B’ is more local teams.”
In the end, the Tuk Bulldogs won the ‘B’ tier out of 10 teams and K & D Outlaws won the ‘A’ tier out of four.
Hendrick estimated the arena had upwards of 550 people in it at the tournament’s peak, but the stands were packed at all hours during the non-stop hockey marathon.
Originally inspired by a similar tournament in Whitehorse, the IRC Native Hockey tournament has now posted 32 successful years. It’s been such as success its main sponsor, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation decided to begin hosting cultural showcases during the weekend.
“Donny’s dad started the tournament and then he passed it over to us,” said Hendrick. “He brought a team down to the Whitehorse Native Tournament and that inspired him to get our home-grown talent going.”
Throughout the tournament, a buffet of country food including muktuk, whitefish, reindeer soup and chilli and moose meat stew kept people well fed. On top of that, artisans Brian Rogers, Eileen Allen, and Josephine and Darrel Nasogaluak taught workshops on jewellery making, traditional yo-yo crafting, and traditional tool making.
“This is the second or third year they’ve been hosting traditional foods and the earring beading, ulus and fish hooks,” she said. “They tie it in with the IRC Hockey.”
Hendrick expressed her thanks to the volunteers who helped keep the tournament going smoothly, as well as to the IRC and Canadian North for sponsoring the gathering.
“We put it out there for anyone who needs hours for school or something,” added Hendrick. “They just come and volunteer and we sign them up.”