Every Friday from 6:45 pm to 7:45 pm, Inuvik youth are given exclusive access to free ice time at the Roy “Sugloo” Ipana Arena in the Midnight Sun Complex, all thanks to the Inuvik Youth Centre’s skate program.
Matthew Skinner, the centre coordinator for the Inuvik Youth Centre, created the program last October to allow local youth to practice their skating or to play hockey in a safe and welcoming environment.
“They love it. They say it’s a good way to practice their skills,” Skinner said. “If they’re in minor hockey, they have to do what the coaches tell them to do, but here they’re free to do whatever they want.”
Some of the kids aren’t able to play minor hockey, so he said that centre’s skate night gives those youth the opportunity to engage in the sport.
“Just knowing that you’re allowing someone who may not have an opportunity to actually have the opportunity to play the sport and see the smile on their face after just feels good inside,” he said. “It’s a great feeling overall.”
An average of 20 kids from the ages of 10 to 12 show up to the skate, but there are often times where more than 30 youth come out to the arena. Following the skate, the youth are served free homemade pizza from the centre.
“They want it to happen more. If it’s cancelled for tournaments and stuff like that, they get pretty upset with me,” he said.
He added that the program’s success is all due to the town’s love for hockey, as the youth “eat, breathe, sleep hockey,” he said.
“At the youth centre, I buy tape and let them tape their sticks and it’s just continuous taping. I talked to a guy down south and he said kids don’t do that anymore,” he said. “But here, they tape their sticks. They’re always asking to see your stick. They love it.”
Skinner, who has been working with the centre since last February, said he wanted to create more programs to draw in a greater variety of youth from all over the community.
“I want to get rid of that stigma that it’s just bad kids that go there. It’s for all youth and everybody’s welcome,” he said.
When growing up in Inuvik, he said that it was the youth workers who were always giving him opportunities, and now he wants to do the same for the youth of today.
“The work at the youth centre is kind of exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to be working with youth and the recreational field, so this is perfect for me.”
Skinner hopes the youth continue to enjoy the programming that the centre has to offer, and that they realize they are always welcome within the centre’s walls.
“I’m here for the youth. In my eyes that’s all that matters, how the youth are,” he said. “If they’re enjoying it, then I’m happy.”