The Hockey Day in Canada celebrations were all the rage in Yellowknife earlier this month but Deline and Norman Wells weren’t left out of the fun.
The two Sahtu communities received a visit from the most famous trophy in Canada as the Stanley Cup landed on Feb. 4, much to the delight of almost everyone who got the chance to see it or touch it. Ron MacLean of Hockey Night in Canada and Hockey Hall of Fame member Bryan Trottier accompanied hockey’s holy grail on its voyage.
Doug Cooper, a teacher at Ehtseo Ayha School in Deline, was on hand to see it and said seeing everyone’s reaction was amazing.
“The parking lot by the lake was jammed with people,” he said. “It wasn’t too hard to get the kids and the community excited about seeing it because it’s emblematic of excellence in hockey and having it in the birthplace of hockey made it that much more special.”
Deline claims to be the birthplace of hockey and there is some evidence to back up that claim thanks to the journals of Sir John Franklin. Legend has it that Franklin’s men would strap on skates and play field hockey on the ice during the years 1825 and 1826.
Morris Neyelle, an elder from Deline, confirmed in a Toronto Star story that elders back then saw men “flying across the ice like they were floating … that’s how they would express it.”
Cooper, who also serves as a minor hockey coach in the community, knows about the story and said he talked to his players about it.
“I asked them to hold up their skates and I told them the blades were nothing like that,” he said. “I told them to imagine skating on a thick butcher knife or something similar to that.”
Leading up to the Cup’s appearance, Cooper had his young players down on the lake ice for a scrimmage to get ready.
“We got on the ice at around 12 or so and played until it was time,” he said.
Lucas Tutcho, 11, said he never thought he would ever see the trophy up close.
“I looked at it and said ‘Oh, my God … it’s the Stanley Cup’,” he said. “It’s bigger than I thought.”
Clay Highfield, 9, said he loved getting to touch the Cup.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.
MacLean and Trottier took the time to speak to everyone in the school’s gymnasium and also signed whatever anyone wanted.
Highfield had his hat signed by both of them.
“Ron’s really cool to talk to.”
Tutcho got his Great Bear Lakers hockey jersey signed and planned to show it off.
“I’m going to a tournament in Norman Wells so everyone will see it,” he said.
Mountain School in Norman Wells did not reply to a request for comment before press time.