For the first time since 2019, the territory’s athletic hopefuls were doing their best to impress coaches or evaluators in the hopes of booking their seat on the Team NT charter flights for the Arctic Winter Games.

Those charters will be heading to the 2023 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Wood Buffalo, Alta., next month. But first, territorial trials were held from Dec. 8 to 10. More than 750 athletes from around the NWT signed up to compete in several sports, including hockey, cross-country skiing, biathlon and Dene games.

Hockey was held at the Multiplex with the U16 and U19 boys teams being picked, along with the U20 girls outfit. Several communities had players in the mix and when it was all said and done, each team was whittled down to the final 17 players.

Kaylee Grant, head coach of the girls team, said there were some tough decisions that had to be made, especially in goal.

“We had three really good goaltenders to choose from and we knew someone would be disappointed at the end,” she said.

Unlike most sports, the coaching staffs for hockey have almost no say in what the final rosters will look like. A team of evaluators put together scouting reports for each player and that’s what helped the coaches assemble their final roster.

“We have no role in the selection — we talk with the evaluators and they hand us the team list,” said Grant. “I’m happy with what our final roster looks like. We have eight roster players of our 17 from outside Yellowknife, so a good ratio of players. Most of the players we cut were from Yellowknife and it’s a more territorial team.”

The team includes some veteran players including Emma Wicks, Jenna Demarcke, Kyra McDonald, Emma Carey, Jamie Cluff and Chandelle Leonard. They’ve all either participated in Arctic Winter Games, Canada Winter Games, National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, or a combination of all three.

Grant said having those players, combined with some young additions to the roster, makes for an exciting outfit.

Futsal took place at the Fieldhouse with NWT Soccer putting the players through their paces. There will be four futsal teams making the trip: two boys and two girls squads, each with a junior and juvenile edition. Futsal is the official version of indoor soccer used by FIFA. It replaces the familiar indoor soccer from past Games. There’s no wall to bounce the ball off of and the ball is more dense than a regular soccer ball.

Cole Clark, NWT Soccer’s executive director, was on hand to help with the selection, and he said he liked what he saw.

“There was a relatively low registration this year, but the players trying out have (amazed) me,” he said. “All of them far exceeded the expectations that I put forward. I think we’ve got a really good squad going here. I was expecting some people may have not played futsal before, but they have transitioned and adapted to the game very well.”

Several sports were still finalizing their rosters as of press deadline. You can see a full list of rosters in a future edition of Yellowknifer.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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