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Playing the long game
Inuvik surgeon releases board game after two-decade delay

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012

Board game night is a welcome break for Inuvik's on-call surgeon any night, but last week it was particularly sweet for Dr. Dennis Boettger, whose new board game made its Northern debut Thursday.

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Dr. Dennis Boettger displays at the hospital dormitory last Thursday the board game he has developed for more than 25 years. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

For Boettger, it was nice to test his new product out on a group of non-family members.

"It's fun watching everybody having fun," said Boettger. "There's a lot of questions, but I think that's good."

Boettger serves as locum surgeon at least four times per year. Last month, he and his wife lived in the hospital dormitories while he filled the position.

About a dozen people, most of them also Inuvik health-care workers, gathered in the common room of the hospital dorm building Thursday night to share in the fun.

Though none of the participants had played the game before, it caught on and laughter filled the room.

"It's very fun," said Linda Cockney, "It reminds me a bit of Monopoly."

Boettger was very much in his element explaining the rules of his game a game about the ups and downs of the world of amateur athletes.

That Sports Game is part board game, part card game.

The playing board itself looks like a stadium with three tiers of seating. All players start on the outside tier and, by winning different cards and earning money, move up to the second and third tiers of play. The only way to win a medal is to win a sporting event while on the third tier.

The basic premise of the game is that players compete against each other for medals in Olympic, also known as amateur, sports. Victories are won by playing the highest-valued card in the game.

"The aim is to win sports events, and you win sports events by playing a card game," said Boettger.

Many challenges lie on the path between the start square and the glory of winning a gold medal. Drug tests, unruly coaches and finicky sponsors are all possible, depending on the luck of the draw. There are even political conflicts, where certain athletes are directed by their homeland to boycott the host city and must miss out on the action.

Like the players of his game, who sometimes suffer setbacks because of the politics of amateur sports, Boettger's game hit a major delay over two decades ago. The first manufactured game was packaged and ready to be shipped to homes all over North America in 1987, in preparation for the '88 Calgary Olympics. However, the International Olympic Committee shut him down, citing copyright infringement on the Olympic trademark.

The original name of the game, The Olympiks which appeared on all 5,000 boxes Boettger was eventually compelled to give away to a Salvation Army bore too close a similarity to the actual name, in the committee's opinion.

"Because we had the O-word, the Olympic Committee shut us down," said Boettger.

The story of the little boardgame in trouble for its name drew the attention of national media at the time.

This detour ultimately led to a better product, said Boettger. Much of the game has been reworked since then, though there is little doubt that last week's showcase was a long time coming. That Sports Game was up for sale, once and for all, on the company's website in March.

"I was busy doing other things off and on, but recently, I decided to finish it," said Boettger, adding with a laugh. "So that's why it took me 25 years."

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