In normal times, the minor hockey season is Yellowknife would be finished well before now.
But, as we all know, it hasn’t been normal since early 2020 and that includes minor hockey. So it took a bit longer to conclude proceedings for the Yk Minor Hockey Association this season.
Championship Weekend is the traditional wrap-up for the year and that took place this past weekend at the Yk Community Arena and Multiplex. Most of the association’s divisions had their playoffs and deciding contests — the exceptions were the U5, U7 and U9 divisions. They each played a series of fun games to close things out.
One of this season’s champions is the DCL Jets as they captured the U18 division title thanks to a 6-5 win over the Nextreme Knights on Sunday evening. It was one of those games that went back and forth, the sort of contest you would want to have for a championship final, according to Peter Curran, one of DCL’s coaches.
“We went up, 1-0, then went down, 3-2, then tied 4-4, we went up 6-4, they got one late in the third period, they pulled their goaltender to get the tying goal and we mucked it out until the end,” he said.
While it was a team effort that got them over the line, Curran said numerous players stood out over the course of the game.
“Nextreme forward Luke Kotaska gave us everything we could handle with three goals in the first half of the game, (but) Michael Van Metre did his part for us by matching Luke goal-for-goal with a hat trick of his own,” he said. “We got another rock-steady effort from goaltender Spencer Miller, who was probably our most consistent player all season.”
Both teams ended up in the final by virtue of winning their semifinals — DCL beat Subway, the U15 development team, to advance while Nextreme beat Hak’s to move on.
“Both of the semifinals were good games,” said Curran. “We won ours in overtime and Nextreme had a close one against Hak’s as well.”
Curran said this year’s U18 division was quite competitive among all of the teams but it was also fun in that some players were playing for the first time.
“We had four kids who didn’t play last year,” he said. “Really competitive division and goodwill between the players. It was a mixture of kids who played on development teams and the new guys and they were all happy to share the ice with each other.”
In the other action, the Canadian North Flyers emerged victorious in the U11 division while the G and G Thunder captured the U13 crown and the CR Oilers took the U15 division honours.
This season didn’t come without its hiccups, all caused by surges of Covid-19 in the city. The big shutdown came just after the Christmas break when the Omicron variant took hold.
Steve Thompson, the association’s president, said the multiple interruptions were a minor hindrance but nothing the membership couldn’t handle.
“The kids and our volunteers were great in dealing with the pauses we had,” he said. “(Executive director) Janet Murray did such an amazing job with our scheduling and rescheduling everything, and everyone did their part in making sure we got it all done.”
In a normal campaign, everything would be done by the time spring break rolled around but the pauses in action forced the association to go deep into April, he added.
“We’re usually done in time for the Spring On Ice Tournament (in Edmonton) but we had to push everything to this past weekend,” he said.
Speaking of Spring On Ice, teams from Yellowknife had some fine results last month while some of the development teams, including the CR Oilers and Subway, got the chance to hit the road and play in travel tournaments again.
Thompson said being able to travel is one of the best parts of youth sport.
“There’s that team bonding that happens and the camaraderie among the kids,” he said. “You can’t get that at home and so having our teams get back out on the road was huge.”
The travel is part of something Thompson hopes will help get things back to something resembling normalcy.
“I hope things stay on the path they are,” he said. “We have to realize it’s a new normal but it’s pretty close to what it was and I’m hoping things will continue the way they have been the last little while.”
Curran also thinks the future looks good.
“We had our disruptions this year but we couldn’t have asked for more than what we had,” he said. “We lost out on the tournaments here and the one in Hay River but the kids came back and I think there was real value in having a competitive house league like we did this season.”