Welcome to 2018.

A chilly start to our year and here’s hoping you were able to stay warm, even enjoying a bit of Christmas cheer along the way. I survived Christmas, but now the job is where to put all of the new stuff. I’ll leave that to the wife because she’s so much better at organizing life than I ever will be.

Julie Squires-Rowe of Hay River takes aim at the broom during action at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Victoria, B.C., in January. Curling Canada photo

One thing I’m decent at, though, is picking out what went well over the 12 months of the year that was and here’s one last look at 2017 from a sporting point of view. Enjoy.

January

Kevin Koe got off to a winning start in 2017 as he joined in with Team North American to win the 2017 Continental Cup in Las Vegas. It’s a Ryder Cup-style event with points earned by each team for winning a game and when all was said and done, Team North America beat Team World by a score of 37-23. Koe himself performed well enough, winning three of his games, losing one and drawing one. The team split $52,000 in prize money with each team member getting $2,000.

Team NWT was hard at it at the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Victoria, B.C., in January. Sawer Kaeser of Fort Smith led the boys entry, which turned out to be the youngest team ever to enter the event while Zoey Walsh of Hay River was the girls skip. Both teams ended up in the seeding pool to determine the final placings but neither team finished winless. Kaeser managed to defeat Nunavut while Walsh also beat Nunavut to go along with a win over Newfoundland and Labrador during the round-robin phase.

Table Tennis North hosted its inaugural NWT championships in Fort Providence in January. A total of 30 players from seven communities hit the tables in the hopes of being crowned territorial champions and most of those who made the trip from Yellowknife and Ndilo came out on top. The exception was Jude Simon of Fort Resolution and Zack Horton of Hay River, who teamed up to win the junior doubles.

February

The second annual Air Tindi Cup hit the ice at the brand-new Khon Go Cho Complex in Behchoko. The event brought together 50 young hockey players from Behchoko, Whati, Wekweeti, Gameti and Lutsel K’e for a weekend of instruction and gameplay.

It would appear the tide is beginning to turn in the swimming pool as the Mackenzie Muskrats of Inuvik gave the Polar Bear Swim Club of Yellowknife a serious run for its money at the NWT Swimming Championships in Yellowknife in February. The Muskrats came away with five overall titles, half of the titles up for grabs.

More than 200 players from around the Beaufort Delta converged on Inuvik for the annual Gwich’in Cup minor hockey tournament. The format was changed this year to have all players mixed up and put on teams rather than have communities enter teams on their own. This year’s tournament featured players from Inuvik, Fort McPherson, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Tsiigehtchic and Paulatuk.

The IRC Cup senior men’s tournament still featured the traditional team format and it was LJ’s Contracting who skated away with the big prize again this year thanks to an 8-4 win over the K&D Outlaws in the A division final. The AK Knights ended up winning the B division after their win over the Gwich’in Flames.

The East Three Huskies came within an eyelash of winning the overall title at the Traditional Games Championships in Yellowknife in February. The Huskies ended up finishing one point behind William McDonald School of Yellowknife in the overall standings. Maverick Elias was a bright spot for the team as he set the new NWT boys records in the one and two-foot high kicks.

March

The NWT Power Corporation Senior Cager basketball tournament featured some big wins for the communities over the big boys from Yellowknife. Chief T’Selehye School of Fort Good Hope took down Sir John Franklin to win the U15 AA boys title in a thriller while Mackenzie Mountain School of Norman Wells made history by winning the U19 A boys title over Sir John Franklin. It was the first banner of any sort won by the school at an out-of-town tournament. East Three Secondary of Inuvik was also a winner, copping the U15 A boys title over Thomas Simpson School of Fort Simpson.

It was another winning weekend for the EGT Nanooks of Tuktoyaktuk as the senior men’s outfit won the A division title at the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament in Whitehorse in March, the fourth year in a row the Nanooks pulled off the feat. The Deline Braves came away with third in the B division.

April

The NWT was back at it on the curling ice as the inaugural Canadian U18 Curling Championships wrapped up in Moncton, N.B. The Inuvik Curling Club represented the territory on the girls side while the Yellowknife Curling Club had the honour of playing in the boys category. The down side? Neither team managed to win a game.

The annual First Air Rec Hockey Tournament produced more community winners in April. The Nahanni Inn Flyers of Fort Simpson, perennial contenders for a title, didn’t disappoint as they skated away with the D division crown after beating the Tait Hawks of Yellowknife in the final while the Yung Ducks of Fort Smith captured the E division title thanks to a 5-0 win over Polar Re-United of Yellowknife.

May

Diavik Junior Super Soccer was a dud for the communities but the senior edition of the NWT scholastic soccer championships was far from it. East Three Secondary managed to take home the U15 A boys title thanks to a win over Sir John Franklin of Yellowknife while Lutsel K’e Dene School beat Diamond Jenness of Hay River to take the U19 A boys banner.

The 2017 National Aboriginal Hockey Championships was a chance for Team North’s boys squad, a joint effort between all three territories, to show that their silver medal one year ago was no fluke. It didn’t work out this time as the boys ended up in sixth place. The girls team, meanwhile, ended up in eighth place overall.

Futsal was the name of the game in Hay River as the annual Futsal DaRosa Cup invaded Diamond Jenness Secondary School. A total of 12 teams hit the school’s gym floor and when the dust settled, three champions were crowned. Rankin Inlet from Nunavut took the U12 division, a South Slave hybrid of Hay River and Fort Smith took the U16 division and the Goalshot Makers from Hay River captured the Open division.

Kierra McDonald of Inuvik comes up for air during a race at the NWT Swimming Championships in Yellowknife in February. NNSL file photo

June

It was all about the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in June. The single-largest sporting event in the NWT saw more than 1,100 athletes from all corners of the territory descend upon the town and several records fell along the way. Haley Cassie of Norman Wells continued her dominance of the track by setting the new mark in the bantam girls 1,500 metre event. Hailey Bassett of Hay River managed to set the new record in the bantam girls shot put while Bryce Smith of Hay River set another high jump record, this time in the midget boys division.

July

The Fort Smith Open tennis tournament produced a repeat winner among its ranks. Jerry Wald of Fort Smith managed to capture the men’s singles title thanks to a three-set win over Gnaneswar Chukka of Yellowknife in a final that took three-and-a-half hours to play. Wald then teamed up with Dennis Bevington of Fort Smith to win the men’s doubles title while Bevington teamed up with his wife, Joan, to win the mixed doubles.

The 2017 North American Indigenous Games wrapped up in Toronto in July but not before Team NWT departed Hogtown with a total of 28 medals. The canoers were once again some of the big winners as Kaidan McDonald of Inuvik and Davina McLeod of Aklavik scored a gold medal in the U19 tandem 3,000 metre event. Kyra McDonald got a silver in the U14 girls 3,000 metre solo race. On the track, Brayden Sinclair of Fort Smith was a gold medalist in the U19 boys shot put while Danika Burke of Fort Resolution was on target in rifle shooting, winning gold in the U16 girls prone event. Gaius Crook was also golden in rifle shooting as he was victorious in the U16 boys prone event.

August

The NWT sports world said goodbye to one of its greatest and most-respected sporting minds. Pat Bobinski died in Hay River at the age of 77, leaving behind a legacy in biathlon that spanned decades. He was president of NWT Biathlon for several years and was the first coach of Brendan Green, who would go on to become a two-time Olympian.

The Canada Summer Games saw the NWT take on the best young athletes in the country and while there were no medals, there were plenty of fine performances. Hay River’s Skylar Horton managed to make the final of the girls long jump and narrowly missed out on the triple jump final but she set a new NWT record in the process.

Fort Smith and Fort Simpson came away the big winners from the NWT Co-Ed Slo-Pitch Championships in Yellowknife. The Fitz Bombers took the A division crown by beating the Average Joes of Yellowknife in the final while the Fort Simpson Braves took down the Delta Force from Yellowknife to win the B division. Both teams earned spots in the Slo Pitch National Canadian Championships in 2018.

September

The countdown to the 2018 Arctic Winter Games really got going as the host society met with the nine delegations and the Arctic Winter Games International Committee in Hay River and Fort Smith. A lot of the discussion centred around how preparations were going, getting updates on venues and setting up the schedules for the various sports.

The Elks Outdoor Soccer Tournament in Hay River kicked off the 2017-2018 scholastic sports season in the NWT. Paul W. Kaeser High School of Fort Smith ended up leaving with two banners, those being the Grade 6/7 and Grade 8/9 boys titles. Diamond Jenness Secondary School from the host community also won the senior girls A crown while Ecole Boreale of Hay River teamed up with Thomas Simpson School of Fort Simpson to win the senior boys A title.

Haley Cassie of Norman Wells comes down the stretch in the 400-metre bantam girls event at the NWT Track and Field Championships in Hay River in June. NNSL file photo

October

Volleyball was the name of the game in the South Slave and Beaufort Delta regions. The annual Lawrie Hobart Memorial Volleyball Tournament in Fort Smith saw Princess Alexandra School of Hay River set their way to two banners, sweeping the Grade 6/7 division with victory in the boys and girls divisions, while Paul W. Kaeser High School captured the U19 boys and Grade 8 boys crowns.

In Inuvik, the annual Paulou Ittungna Memorial Volleyball Tournament saw plenty of action across several divisions. JLT defeated Tuk to win the men’s title while How I Set Your Mother downed Serves You Right to capture the women’s division.

The NWT Cross-Country Championships were once again held in Fort Providence in October. William McDonald School of Yellowknife successfully defended the overall championship they won in 2016 but several athletes from the communities managed to nail down top-three results.

November

Chief T’Selehye School of Fort Good Hope capped off an incredible run at Senior Spike It! in Yellowknife in November. The U19 boys squad defeated St. Pat’s High School of Yellowknife to win the AA banner, a win dedicated to Gregory Shae, the team’s late coach who died in 2016. They lost just one set in the entire tournament. Diamond Jenness Secondary School of Hay River beat St. Pat’s to win the U15 A girls crown while Paul W. Kaeser of Fort Smith downed Yellowknife’s Sir John Franklin for the U19 A boys banner.

The NWT Sport Hall of Fame welcomed its class of 2017 in November. Antoine Mountain of Fort Good Hope entered the hall in the athletes category after a stellar career in cross-country skiing and he was joined by Michael Gilday of Yellowknife, the NWT’s greatest-ever speedskater. The late Pat Bobinski of Hay River entered the builders category for his years of service growing the sport of biathlon.

It was awards a-plenty in November as the Aboriginal Sports Circle of the NWT handed out its annual honours in November. The winners included Fort Smith’s Brandon Thompson, who received the Coach Award for his work in volleyball, while Bess Ann McKay of Fort Resolution was named the Community Builder of the Year, which included recognition for her years of work in dog mushing.

Sport North got in on the awards bandwagon with its annual awards banquet in November. Several of the award winners were from Yellowknife but Thorsten Gohl of Fort Providence managed to cop the Ruth Inch Memorial Contributor to Sport Award for his work with Table Tennis North. Rowe’s Construction of Hay River also won the Corporate Contributor award.

December

The Scott McAdam Badminton Championships once again ruled the roost in Hay River in December. A total of 125 athletes from five communities hit the courts looking to win one of the titles up for grabs across several divisions. Some players managed to win triple gold and they included Garrett Peters of Hay River, Riella Bordey of Hay River, Xander McMahon of Fort Smith and Landon Jewell of Fort Smith.

Kevin Koe was finally able to tick off the one thing on his curling to-do list in December as he and his rink of Marc Kennedy, Brent Laing and Ben Hebert won the Roar of the Rings Olympic Trials in Ottawa. Koe beat Mike McEwen of Manitoba by a score of 7-6 to earn a spot at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

And there you have it. It’s a bit over 2,000 words but you get the idea – it was a busy year. Plenty more to come in 2018 and you know you will read all about it in these pages and nowhere else. Happy New Year!

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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