Gene Jenks proudly held up his “most likely to hit the boards to stop” award during a year-end event for the Inuvik Can’t Skate League Friday, April 21.
Jenks has been playing in the league for all three years of its existence.
“When I started three years ago I could not skate, I couldn’t stop,” he said. “Playing one hour a week during the wintertime for three years now I can stop. I can skate pretty fast. I can’t skate backwards yet, but there’s definitive improvement.”
The league is a recreational hockey program for people with very little to no rink skills to come together for a relaxed opportunity to learn.
Players don’t keep score and the whole premise is to help the beginners. Some skaters can’t skate at all, while others might be decent players.
“The premise is to play down to the level,” said Genks. “If you’re a can’t skater and you’re playing with what we call a can skater, they will make a point to set you up for a goal, they’ll pass to you. They won’t take the puck away, but if they see you improving, they will heighten up their level too.”
Forty-four unique players took part in the league this year, which meets once a week for an hour. 10 of those players were women. A total of 327 people played over the course of the year.
“Some weeks we had over 20 people,” said Jenks, adding that the best turnout night was 24, and thankfully no more, as his insurance covers up to 25 people.
Inspiration for the league came from how many people share the story of wishing they had learned to skate as a youth or kick themselves for dropping out of it when young.
“This is the opportunity for both kinds of people to hit the ice in a very non-competitive format to learn how to play,” said Jenks.
It’s an hour a week to get away from the burdens of life, he continued.
“Every time you get off the ice, everybody’s smiling. It’s therapeutic.”
Jenks hopes to continue the group’s momentum next hockey season. He encourages anyone to join up.
Players have to have their own equipment, depending on their comfort level, but Jenks recommends full gear for beginners.
Jenks also won awards for “most likely to fall on his butt” and “best Bambi on the ice impression.”
George Parkes was voted most improved.