Is there a future Jamie Koe or Kerry Galusha out there somewhere in the NWT? There may have been earlier this month.
NWT Curling hosted its inaugural Rock The Rings curling festival in Yellowknife from Feb. 14 to 16 with a total of 13 teams from Yellowknife, Hay River and Inuvik competing in two divisions in the hope of being crowned the first-ever champions. When the dust settled, Kayla Sanderson of Inuvik skipped her U12 team to victory while Kali Skauge of Yellowknife was the victorious skip on the U15 side.
Inuvik’s Nick Saturnino, president of NWT Curling, was on hand to help run the show and provide some on-ice guidance to the young players.
He said for the first time, it was a success.
“We were hoping there may have been a few more teams from Hay River and in Fort Smith, we know there isn’t much of a junior program right now,” he said. “We were close to what we had expected.”
Each division had its own playing format with each of the nine teams in the U12 division getting four games in a modified round-robin. After that, there were games to determine the champions, third place, fifth place and seventh place. In the U15 division, each of the four teams played a round-robin with the top two teams moving on to play for the title.
Sanderson couldn’t wait to call home to tell her family about the win and after she was done, she spoke with NWT News/North about how she did it.
Especially that Scotties Tournament of Hearts-like shot to win it in the final end of play.
“We were all really excited,” she said. “They were sitting one right on the button and we were trying to hit their rock out but we hit our rock and it just skimmed it and pushed the other rock away so we ended up on the button.”
A successful raise-takeout shot, if you will, even if it wasn’t drawn up according to plan.
Victory in the final gave Sanderson a perfect weekend in the win column – five out of five – and while going undefeated was nice, she said the goal was to simply win the jackets that went to the winning team.
“We didn’t think we would win against the last team we played,” she said.
The impetus behind the creation of the festival was to give curling an annual event in the same vein as others such as Super Soccer, Spike It! and the NWT Track and Field Championships, events already established on the NWT sports calendar.
Saturnino said in addition to that, it’s to help prepare the younger curlers for future Canadian U18 and Canadian Junior Championships, if that’s the route they so desire to take down the road.
Sanderson said she’s looking forward to competing for those events down the road.
“I’d like to do both,” she said.
As for next year, Saturnino said he expects that some more players and teams will join in, especially when those who played this year tell the stories about how the first year went.
“When they see what the winning teams got (championship banner and jackets), I’m thinking they’ll want to win one of those,” he said. “The winning teams get to design their own jackets and that’s going to happen over the next few weeks. I don’t think a lot of the kids realize that and hopefully, they’ll try a bit harder next year to win.”