SPORTS TALK: Thinking caps on, kids … time to save Team North

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Alright, so the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT is no longer looking after the bill for Team North at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships. In all honesty, I don’t blame them for going down this road.

When you’re ponying up close to $200,000 on an annual basis to send 36 players to a national championship and getting absolutely no help from your partners, there comes a time when you have to cut the cord. That time, apparently, was now.

So what to do? The worst case scenario is that Team North fades off, never to be seen again, and it goes back to the territories becoming their own entities again as it was in the olden days. I don’t think we need to be reminded of how that went and that’s why Team North was created in the first place. We are better together and that silver medal the boys team won in 2015 is proof that things were working.

 Danica Taylor battles for position in front of the net during action against B.C. at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse back in May. The 2019 edition of the championships may be the last one Team North is a part of unless something magical happens. Laisa Kilabuk/Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT photo

Danica Taylor battles for position in front of the net during action against B.C. at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships in Whitehorse back in May. The 2019 edition of the championships may be the last one Team North is a part of unless something magical happens.
Laisa Kilabuk/Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT photo

As Aaron Wells, the Sports Circle’s executive director, pointed out in this edition of (NWT News/North or Nunavut News … pick the appropriate one), his organization is happy to help another group keep Team North alive and that needs to happen. What can’t happen is for the Sports Circle to continue to stump up roughly one-eighth of its annual budget and not get a penny of help from the other territories.

So with that in mind, let’s figure out what could happen:

One thing that’s out is getting the territorial sport organizations involved. Hockey North did provide some money to the program for incidentals but there’s no way Hockey NWT, Hockey Nunavut and Hockey Yukon could even come close to pooling that type of money together and not have it affect their bottom lines. They could conceivably chip in some money but they can’t do it themselves, just like the Sports Circle can no longer.

Corporate sponsorship is the answer, right? Sure … but it would essentially be narrowed down to a few who could really afford it. Northwestel, Dominion Diamond Mines, DeBeers – yes, they’re all possibilities but they’re always leaned on to provide support and they usually come through. There’s a very good chance you’ve seen their logo on every single Canada Games or Arctic Winter Games uniform out there. Those companies spend millions of dollars already and although they could possibly provide the right type of dollar amount, you can’t depend on them to simply cut a cheque.

One idea I had bandying around the half-empty space of my cerebellum region was for Sport North or the Sport and Recreation Division in Nunavut (the artists formerly known as Sport Nunavut) to possibly step in and make it part of the Team NT program. And as soon as I thought about it, I nixed it. Why would they solely take on the job of organizing athletes from outside their jurisdiction?

We always keep finding ways to make sure nothing works but never to figure out if something could work. I submit these two thoughts which populated my cranium:

Sport North or the the Sport and Recreation Division in Nunavut could get involved but if they did – and I was either Doug Rentmeister of Kyle Seeley, the respective executive directors for each organization – I would demand joint participation because a three-way split could be the answer. No way should any of the three groups be expected to shoulder the cost alone. This is why we’re in the mess we’re in in the first place.

Corporate sponsorship could work but this is where there needs to be a team effort. Instead of going to a large business, you go to some medium-sized businesses and see if it’s possible to garner enough of them to jump on board. I can think of several off of the top of my head in all three territories and when you’re adding a few thousand dollars at a time, it adds up fast. You honour those businesses by placing their logo on one of the jerseys, boys or girls. This is something a lot of teams in the south do as opposed to making the jersey as a whole look like a moving version of the Sears Wish Book.

No matter what happens, there needs to be a group that takes it over because this tournament is a great one. It gives a group of young hockey players a chance to get noticed and if you think about it, it’s the only truly national hockey championship the North gets to play in on an annual basis.

So who’s gonna do it?