In some ways, I suppose this piece could be seen as a continuation of what I penned in this space the previous week on March 11 “(In the here and now”), but in talking with a number of people across the Kivalliq during the past seven days, the scope of the impact that the coronavirus disease and COVID-19 has had on the region without, to the best of my knowledge as I write this, a single confirmed case in the Kivalliq truly has been quite remarkable and, in many cases, quite disturbing.
There’s no need to regurgitate the better-safe-than-sorry mindset over the disease that has led to the cancellation of almost every single event in our region and beyond, but the emotional impact the cancellations have had are staggering and very few are of a positive nature.
It was heartbreaking to watch a group of boys in Rankin Inlet show-up at the now, for all intents and purposes, darkened new arena in the community to receive the Team Nunavut paraphernalia they would have been wearing at the Arctic Winter Games this very week in Whitehorse, especially in comparison to the scenes that played out at similar gatherings in years past.
Gone were the smiling faces, exaggerated struts of pride, accomplishment and confidence and the loud clamour of youth that envelops such moments of unbridled excitement and happiness.
They were replaced by sombre faces and almost total silence. The only sounds being heard were that of the voice of their coach calling out each name to come-up and receive their bag and the slow, dejected shuffle of their feet moving forward.
Some whispered an almost inaudable “thank you” to the man they had spent so many hours with preparing for a dream’s realization that wasn’t to be, and many could not look their coach in the eyes for fear of letting their sadness run down their cheeks; a battle that continued as they left the arena, most with their heads down, many with their bottom lip quivering.
It was a disturbing, almost overwhelming, experience that I knew was playing, or had already played out, in numerous communities in our share of the circumpolar world – a thought that did very little to brighten my disposition, as my mind – a mind that has been exposed to every facet of the game of hockey for its entire being – raced to find some words of encouragement to offer these lads. None came.
The moment was also the perfect encapsulation of those voices that had spoken to me during the week about doubts and knee-jerk reactions in connection to the precautions being taken against COVID-19.
It was a moment that lent credence to their observations, and a moment not often witnessed by those who make such decisions. And, it could also leave one wondering just how much consideration was given to such moments with the speed of which the cancellations came.
And it was a paramount moment of impact upon the more athletic of our youth and their families.
But the voices also spoke of fear, and there can be no denying the fact that many people are quite concerned about and, indeed, quite afraid of COVID-19 and the impact it may have if unleashed upon our populace. And whether the fear is genuine or manufactured, it is quite real and the concern is quite valid.
And, when one takes a further moment to consider that those negatively impacted by the cancellations also have parents, grandparents and others they love or care deeply about who are in the age groups most impacted by COVID-19, and most likely to lose their lives should it ever run rampant in our territory – one has to concede the right decisions were made in relation to the cancellations.
Here’s hoping those who made the cancellations will take a moment to consider the dramatic impact – unseen in offices and boardrooms – their decisions had upon many of our youth, and will be just as quick to come up with ways to make some of it up to them after COVID-19 is brought under control and life, as know it, goes back to normal.