When Nunavut hockey captain Max Joy leads his team onto the ice Sunday against Team Northwest Territories, it will mark the first time a team from his territory has made it to the Canada Winter Games.
Pulling players together across thousands of kilometres just to bring the team together for training camps, Team Nunavut has been a creation four years in the making. The team of under-16 boys is spread out across the north in towns such as Chesterfield Inlet, Rankin Inlet, Coral Harbour Iqaluit. Several players go to school in southern schools in P.E.I., Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan. They have only been able to practise together at three camps or tournaments in Sarnia, Ont. Yellowknife, NT, and recently in Ottawa. Most of these boys have more air mile points than a Google executive.
“It’s such an honour to be part of the first hockey team from Nunavut at the Canada Games,” says Max, 15, who attends Notre Dame High School, the noted hockey academy in Wilcox, Sask. “We met up a few months ago in Sarnia, had camps in fall and winter – played together in Arctic Winter Games. The foundation of that team has stayed together and we added a few guys.”
Team Nunavut has 17 Inuk or Inuit players and three northern boys, born and raised in the Territory.
“We’re a representation of what Nunavut really is,” says Max’s father Martin Joy, the team’s coach. “It’s amazing because it’s such a tight cultural group here. Just because they are separated by thousands of miles, when you get them together it’s like they are brothers. It’s representative of the culture around how familiar, how accepting Nunavut is. All these boys are so proud to represent home.”
Joy says his band of teens is setting new milestones for up and coming kids in Nunavut, showing them what they can achieve with hard work and teamwork.
“Hockey is hockey – guys are going to try their hardest. But the opportunity this affords our kids to experience something on this scale is life changing,” says Joy. “Being the 13th province and territory to get here, we’re going to have some learning along the way but win, lose or score on the board, that’s not our focus.”
The boys hockey tournament runs all week at the Red Deer Downtown Arena and the Kinex Arena. Gold and bronze medal games are Feb. 22 at the Centrium.