It was a cold and windy day down by Shell Lake on April 23, but that didn’t stop the kids from playing hockey one last time on the outdoor rink.
As the players engaged in quick five-on-five games, parents and younger siblings watched from a distance, gathered around a campfire and enjoying hot dogs, s’mores and hot chocolate.
What made this scene so special was the sense of community that I got from the group. These were kids and families from all over Inuvik who had cultivated deep relationships with one another through their love of a sport.
It was here I realized that hockey in Inuvik transcends the realm of sports. This is more than just a game for residents – it’s a way of life. It’s a game that unites people from all corners of the community. Lifelong lessons, friendships, camaraderie and a sense of kin are developed out on the ice and in the stands.
What really stuck out to me was the support base that these kids have. The parents and the coaches really do believe that these kids are special. They believe that all of them are talented enough to make it to the NHL.
When I ask local youth what they want to do when they’re older, the answer is always the same: to play in the NHL. It’s a bold and ambitious dream, but it’s a dream nonetheless. It takes a lot of hard work and skill to get to that point, and it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re located in a Northern remote community.
The coaches and the parents recognize that. They realize how difficult it is for their kids to get where they want to be. But instead of giving up on their kids, parents continue to fuel their dreams by providing youth with countless opportunities to get onto the ice by any means necessary.
There’s no denying that these these kids possess remarkable talent. Perhaps they will make it to the NHL some day. But even if they don’t, they still have the most loyal fans in the world in the friends and family who believe they are superstar-calibre players.
Chris Gruben, who coached several of the players who were on the ice, said the future is limitless for these kids, and I couldn’t agree more. They’re destined for success, whatever they end up doing with their lives. No matter what they achieve in life, the community will always celebrate as if they had just won the Stanley Cup. When a child has this foundation under them, anything is possible. To have people behind you who are constantly praising you and lighting a fire underneath you can go a long way.