by Cody Punter
Heading into the semifinals on March 22, the Northwest Territories’ Arctic Winter Games female hockey team had their eye on repeating their gold performance from the Games in Nuuk.
While defending their title was important to the players, they have also been focused on rallying behind teammate Regan Bulger, whose dad Carl Bulger died suddenly earlier this month.
The news sent shockwaves through the hockey community in Yellowknife, where the 14-year-old Regan is from.
Since the news broke, Regan’s teammates have been doing all they can to support her on and off the ice.
“We’re just trying to be as strong as we can for Regan right now,” said Sarah Flemming, who plays on the same midget team as Regan in Yellowknife.
Well-known athlete and supporter
Carl was a well-known athlete and a huge supporter of youth sports in the family’s hometown. Among other things, he was a long-time sponsor of minor hockey, including the midget team that several of the NWT girls currently play on.
“Every game and every practice he came and supported every single one of us girls. He cheered, he would give us great advice. He was just the man,” said Flemming. “You could say he was ‘The Hockey Dad.'”
To show their support for Regan, each girl is sporting a sticker on the back of their helmets which reads “Carl #13.” The only exception is Regan whose sticker reads “Daddy’s girl.”
After a tough 4-2 loss against Alaska on March 21, Regan said the support from her teammates has meant the world to her.
“It’s been really difficult so it’s really nice to have the team behind me and helping me push through this,” she said.
Assistant coach Kaylee Grant said Regan has been showing tremendous poise on and off the ice, given the circumstances. She even scored a beautiful goal against Alberta North last Tuesday.
“That was a big goal for her,” Grant said. “The girls were definitely excited.”
After finishing 3-1 in the round robin, the Northwest Territories was guaranteed a spot in the March 22 semifinals, which the team won 3-2 against Alberta North.
Alas, a repeat gold ulu was not in the cards after falling 3-2 in a heartbreaker with Team Alaska on Friday night, forcing Team NT to settle for the silver. The girls knew it woudn’t be easy to defend their title against Alaska, who hadn’t lost a game in the tournament.
Regan said getting an ulu at the Arctic Winter Games would be a fitting way for the team to finish off the tournament.
“It would mean a lot to win because I know he’s watching and he’d be so proud.”
Both the bantam and midget boys won gold in their divisions. The bantam boys beat Alberta North 4-3 in the final and the midget team beat Nunavut 2-1 to claim gold.