The puck drops FridayInuvik to face off against Hay River in the Northern Hockey Challenge
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 24, 2013
Going into the months-long competition, Inuvik hockey player Tim Gordon said he believes his team has a good shot at making it to the very end.
"We do have a good talent base here," Gordon said. "We're not just jumping in thinking 'Oh, we'll give it a shot.' We're actually thinking 'Hey, we could win this if everything falls into place'."
Seven teams, split into two divisions, are set to compete in the competition. The Western division will be made up of teams from Inuvik, Hay River and Yellowknife. The Eastern division will be formed of teams from Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Repulse Bay and Kuujjuaq, Que.
Each team will play a home-and-home series with the top two teams in each division advancing to the playoffs. A best-of-five series will determine the east and west division champions. From there the two teams left standing will compete in another best of five to determine the overall winner.
According to commissioner Darrell Greer, the plan is to have the top team represent the North at the North American Senior Hockey Championships in Calgary later in the year.
This season is just a test run for the challenge, added Greer, but if it takes off it could become an official Northern league.
"We already have some communities from the west looking to join next year and we would hopefully expand our schedule and become official."
Inuvik team manager Donny Hendrick said it has been easy finding players to fill the town's roster. About half the bunch, he said, is made up of Northwind Industry players who usually compete in the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation Native Hockey Tournament. He has also picked up a few players from Tuktoyaktuk, Yellowknife and Sachs Harbour.
"These boys are pretty excited to be a part of this team," Hendrick said. "There aren't many times they can get out and travel. Hay River and Yellowknife just cost so much. I'm sure glad First Air is sponsoring this challenge."
First Air is credited with getting the ball rolling on the creation of the competition. The airline has further assisted by providing uniforms and helping teams with travel.
This weekend the Inuvik team will also be looking for support from the community.
The fans could mean the difference between winning and losing, Gordon said.
"When you play at home, in your hometown, you're not out there just for yourself. We're representing Inuvik and we don't want to disappoint but we need their support as well," Gordon said. "Going out, playing against Hay River with nobody there, it lessens our chances of winning. If there is more people out there cheering for us our chances of winning are going to double."
Two games against Hay River, begin with a warm-up starting at 7:30 p.m., Jan. 25 and 26.