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Minor hockey birthed in Fort Liard
Recreation program expanded to include popular sport

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Thursday, January 28, 2016

Last week, eight Fort Liard youth got to try something new: minor hockey.

NNSL photo/graphic

Fort Liard's new minor hockey team, seen here during their very first practice on Jan. 15. Ashanti Beaulieu, back left, joins teammates Kadence Norn, Syles Timbre, Chase Berreault, Kayne McLeod, Elizabeth Nelson and Joseph Berreault. In front is Zachary Berreault. - photo courtesy of Roslyn Firth

The sport is commonly found in other communities across the North. Although Fort Liard has a men's hockey team, the hamlet has never run a minor hockey team before.

Hamlet recreation co-ordinator Roslyn Firth said the program already has coaches and youth have expressed quite a bit of interest in joining up.

"They're really having fun with it, and it amazes me how good they are at it already," Firth said.

Minor hockey joins a growing list of sports Fort Liard youth have access to. Firth said part of the reason the hamlet has not had a team before is due to the fact recreation staff have focused on other programming, including cross-country skiing, snowboarding and Fort Liard's wildly successful soccer program.

Firth has also helped to organize archery and biathlon in the past.

"The programs have evolved ... This is going to be our learning year, and then maybe next year they'll go to tournaments," she said.

"We just need to get our skates under us."

All youth who are involved on the hockey team are equipped with the proper gear, courtesy of the hamlet. Recently, Firth said the Northwest Territories Hockey Association connected the hamlet with the Knights Templar Charitable Foundation of Canada in Nova Scotia that donated enough equipment for the team.

"We had some equipment before but they really filled in what we didn't have so we know every child has ... what they need," Firth said.

The team will be coached by Echo Dene School principal Brad Carrier, as well as by local hockey players and a member of the RCMP.

Carrier said he is starting the team off with "an age-appropriate initiation program."

"We work on crossovers, we do our circles, we work on strong starts. All the basics. Then we have a nice little scrimmage at the end," he said.

"For people just learning how to skate, the most important (thing) is to get out there playing games ... but when you have ages 13 and older, they don't buy into that as much. They don't resist it but they're more into the realistic hockey skills."

Carrier volunteered to coach the team after brainstorming with Firth on potential recreation initiatives. Prior to coming to Fort Liard, where he has been principal since September, he lived in Whati and coached hockey there for four years.

Games are held Friday nights. So far, the team has had two practises.

"The kids are getting into it a little bit more each

week. They seem to be catching on," he said.

"Although I do 13 and up, if there are people around willing to suit up they can hop on. It's not too strict; we're willing to keep things pretty flexible here."

There are no requirements for youth wanting to join the program. Carrier said youth are welcome regardless of whether they are doing well in school or are even enrolled in school at all.

"I was originally looking to make a school program and have marks attached to it but I think the program we have in place, where we collaborate with the community, is great. I don't think there's any reason to change it," Carrier said.

"On Friday nights, youth can do this instead of some of the other things we wouldn't like to see them get into."

He added new members to the program are always welcome.

The minor hockey team will be able to practise until the end of March which is usually the time the ice in the arena melts.

The relatively short ice season usually begins in mid-December but with the Christmas break looming it was decided the hockey program would start in January.

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