Arctic Bay was swept with hockey fever in the middle of April; the Qamutik Cup tournament had come to town. The hockey tournament happens every year but the communities involved take turns hosting the event. This year was Arctic Bay's turn. Five teams would compete for first place: two teams from Arctic Bay, two teams from Igloolik, and one team from Pond Inlet. The Igloolik and Pond Inlet teams came to Arctic Bay by skidoo and qamutik. Igloolik is about 425km to the south of Arctic Bay while Pond Inlet is about 238km to the east. The visiting hockey teams had to leave their home towns several days in advance so that they would arrive on time. They didn't drive non-stop; a few days were spent camping out on the land. That's the way to do it. Why drive all the way and not stop to enjoy the expansive & endless landscape?
Everyone was excited and talking about the hockey tournament. Many of my students asked me if I was going to attend the games. I said I would try as best as I could. It had been a long time since I stepped inside the hockey arena. The matches would be held in the afternoon.
The tournament officially started on Monday, April 13, the day after I assisted Stephen with recovering his ATV on the road to Nanisivik. The first part of the tournament was a round robin of nine games spread across three days. Three of the teams played four of the nine games while the other two just played three. (I'm not a tournament organizer so I'm not sure how the progressions are determined). I was unable to attend the first five games, but I did find the time to attend Game 6 on the evening of April 14th.
The winners of the first five games were as follows:
Game 1: Igloolik #1
· Game 2: Igloolik #2
· Game 3: Igloolik #1
· Game 4: Pond Inlet
· Game 5: Arctic Bay #1
Both Igloolik teams would face off for Game 6. I left my skidoo behind and walked down to the hockey arena from my house. The arena was too close for me to use my skidoo. The main lobby was packed with people waiting for the next game to begin. Game 5 had just finished and the ice was being resurfaced. A lot of my students were there and they greeted me as I entered the building. I was also greeted by many local Inuit. Former Member of the (Nunavut) Legislative Assembly (MLA), Ron Elliot, was selling pop, chips, candy, and other goodies at the canteen. There were also other people selling various items.
I paid the $2 admission and entered the arena. I was glad I was wearing my Canada Goose parka because it was cold inside. The arena doesn't have a Zamboni machine to resurface the ice so this task done manually by volunteers. Many Inuit youth grab large brooms and sweep all the chipped ice outside. Then a small ice resurfacing machine on two wheels is brought out and pulled by one person around the rink.
When the stands were filled with spectators, both Igloolik teams skated out onto the ice and took practice shots for five minutes. Then the first puck was dropped by the referee. The referee happened to be one of my former students from the previous semester. As soon as the puck dropped, I began snapping pictures with my digital camera. Everyone watching the game began to cheer in Inuktitut.
"Hey, Adrian!" one of my students shouted, "what team are you cheering for?"
"Igloolik!" I replied over the cheers.
"Yeah, but which one?"
"Not sure. I'm just keeping it neutral right now!"
I watched the first two periods before going home for the night. It was a school night and I needed my sleep. I had taken plenty of good pictures of the game and filmed two segments. I also ended up taking a lot of blurry pictures but those I didn't keep. There were some pretty intense moments during the game but thankfully no fights. Although, several players on both teams received penalties. I learned the next day that Igloolik Team #1 won.
On the evening of April 15th, the local Northern Store presented a cheque for $2,947.32 to 3045 Army Cadet Corps. The brief presentation took place inside the Inuujaq School gym where the cadets regularly parade every Wednesday night. The money, drawn from the store's Environmental Fund, will go towards assisting the cadets in their cleanup of the area behind the airport. The cheque was presented by Joy Crawford & Diana Burges, the manager & assistant manager of the Northern Store.
The two semifinal games of the Qamutik Cup occurred on Thursday, April 16th, and the residents of Arctic Bay were excited but also nervous. Only the Arctic Bay #2 team made it to the semifinals. And they would be facing off against Pond Inlet. I could sense the tension in the air when I walked into the arena during the second period of the game.
It took some time to find a place to stand because the place was packed with spectators. Everyone was shouting, "De-fence!", "Atii!", "Let's go Arctic Bay, Let's go!", and "Come on! Shoot!" Every time the puck missed the net, the arena erupted into a loud, collective groan. Arctic Bay was in the lead but Pond Inlet was catching up. There were a lot of intense moments but again, no fights broke out. By the end of the third period, Pond Inlet & Arctic Bay were tied 10-10. The game would go into overtime.
The overtime was also intense but short-lived. After about a minute of play, a Pond Inlet hockey player shot the puck between the skates of the Arctic Bay goalie, scoring the winning goal. The Pond Inlet team charged onto the ice and swarmed their lucky teammate. The Arctic Bay team collapsed to the ice in disbelief. The audience was stunned into silence. I didn't say anything. I'll be hearing about this tomorrow at school, I thought.
People began to file out of the area as both teams shook hands. I was one of the last people to leave the stands. The parking lot was completely occupied by trucks, ATVs, and skidoos. Many people were smoking & talking about the game. I walked up the hill and snapped a photo before walking back home.
It turned out that barely any of my students wanted to talk about the loss the next day. Most of them still looked dejected. Only a few people wanted to look at my photos and videos of the games. "Well, there's always next year," was all I could say.
The final game between Igloolik Team #1 & Pond Inlet was held several days later. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. I was told the game was fun to watch and Igloolik Team #1 emerged victorious. The award ceremony was held in the community hall. The visiting teams left the following weekend.
And finally, (and off-topic), I received my brand new sealskin kamiks from Kigutikarjuk, Shappa, a respected elder of Arctic Bay. She was hired by Kataisee, the high school Inuktitut & Inuit culture teacher, to teach & help students sew parkas, mitts, and kamiks. This would enable them to pass on this traditional knowledge to their future kids.
My brown sealskin kamiik cost $500 to make. Five hundred dollars sounds expensive but this is actually the cheapest price when living in a northern community. The usual going rate is $1000 per pair. The sealskin fur is scraped off, thus making them waterproof. They are very good at keeping your feet warm but getting a solid grip on the ground is tricky. I've been told to put hockey tape on the soles for better grip. If you're not wearing insoles, you feel everything you step on. I was also instructed to keep them in the freezer so they don't dry up. Dried kamiks lead to tears and tightness. I thanked Shappa for her excellent work. My kamiks complemented the sealskin tie I bought in Iqaluit.
It didn't take long for everyone to notice my newly acquired footwear. I received many compliments from teachers & staff on how good they looked. I paid one of my students $25 to install two wooden planks over the metallic footrests on my skidoo. That way, the metallic "teeth" wouldn't dig in to my kamiks and rip them open.