IRC hosts 31st annual Native Hockey Tournament

190 players from around the Beaufort Delta Region participated in the games

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The 31st annual Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC) Native Hockey Tournament wrapped up on Feb. 17, with 190 players from communities across the Beaufort Delta Region participating in the event at Inuvik’s Midnight Sun Complex.

“It’s the best time of the weekend. There’s good hockey, everyone comes to visit and you get to see old friends,” said organizer Donald Hendrick.

According to Hendrick, the majority of players came from communities Inuvik, Paulatuk, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk and Fort McPherson. There were also players from the Yukon, Nunavut and Edmonton. Of the 190 players, Hendrick said five or six were women.

“Paulatuk Wolverines’ players are mostly from Paulatuk. The teams from Tuk are mostly just Tuk players,” he said. “Fort McPherson are pretty much all themselves. But some teams are a mix of different players.”

The players, who were 16 and older, were divided into 14 teams split between two divisions. Division A had three teams and played a total of five games during the four-day tournament, while Division B had 11 teams and played 20 games.

“The A division is more competitive, fast-paced hockey with good players. The B division is mostly just community players,” said Hendrick. “There’s a few teams that pick up players from Whitehorse and Alberta. It’s competitive hockey as well, but not as fast as the A division.”

Plumb Crazy, mostly players from Inuvik, defeated the Tuk Bulldogs 5-1 to finish first in the B division. LJ’s Sabres had the edge over K&D Outlaws, beating them 5-3 to win the A division.

Nolan Kasook of LJ’s Sabres celebrates after scoring a goal against the K&D Outlaws during the tournament’s final game of the A division. The Sabres ended up winning the game 5-3. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo
Nolan Kasook of LJ’s Sabres celebrates after scoring a goal against the K&D Outlaws during the tournament’s final game of the A division. The Sabres ended up winning the game 5-3. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo

“I just enjoy the atmosphere in the rink all weekend. Everyone comes and enjoys themselves to watch some good hockey,” said Hendrick. “I really enjoy the sportsmanship between the teams participating, as well as the fans… I just enjoy the atmosphere, seeing old friends and meeting new friends.”

This was Hendrick’s 18th year running the tournament. His father, Roy Ipana, launched the tournament in 1988.

“He used to send a team to Whitehorse in March every year for their annual native hockey tournament,” Hendrick said. “He went up to the IRC and asked them if they would sponsor the native tournament here, and they stepped up and for the last 31 years they’ve been sponsoring this tournament.”

He said that he hopes to keep his father’s legacy alive, and that people continue to celebrate the tournament.

“There’s only one major tournament we have in Inuvik and everyone looks forward to this weekend,” he said.

In addition to hockey, a number of cultural activities were offered over the weekend. On Feb. 15 and 16, traditional country foods such as moose chili, reindeer soup, dry fish, char quaq, and muqtuq were served to attendees for free in the complex’s community hall.

There were also workshops such as tool making, beading and carving that were hosted throughout the day on Feb. 16. Included was a passport photo station for anyone looking to get their passport picture taken.

“It’s good that they do crafts and all that stuff. It’s good that Inuvialuit is doing this,” said Hendrick. “It’s good to keep our tradition alive.”

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Aaron Hemens served as the editor of the Inuvik Drum from January to August 2019. He's responsible for reporting on everything Inuvik, from covering community gatherings and sporting events, to writing the weekly columns. He's a dedicated photographer who loves getting to know the town through the community members that he meets. He's originally from Ottawa, Ont., where he graduated from Carleton University's journalism program in 2018. He can be contacted at 867-777-4545 or at inuvikdrum@nnsl.com. You can check out his photos on his Instagram account: @aaron.hemens.

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