Hockey games have been few and far between for anyone in the NWT over the past couple of years but there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

It may be getting back to normal. May.

The Fort Smith Hawks U15 squad got the chance to get in some game action earlier this month as they headed up the highway to take on some U15 teams from the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association in the capital. The weekend was able to happen under an exemption through Hockey North, which sanctioned the exhibition games, while the games themselves were played under the current health regulations for minor hockey in Yellowknife.

The Fort Smith squad was actually a combination of players from Fort Smith Minor Hockey and Hay River Minor Hockey.

“We had eight Fort Smith U15s and two U13s with three U15s from Hay River and one U13,” said Jessica Cox, who was one of the Fort Smith coaches.

The Hawks played a total of four games between Feb. 18 and 20, beginning on the 18th versus the CR Oilers, Yellowknife’s U13 development squad, and came away with a 6-1 win in that contest. Next up was the Old Time Rangers from the U15 division and that was another victory by a score of 10-1.

Cox said it was after that game that a tougher test was organized.

“We began a discussion with the (Yellowknife) U15 development team,” she said. “I talked with Darren (Wicks, head coach of the Yk squad) and it came together. The city accommodated our request to get some ice time for the game on Sunday morning. We paid for it but it was booked and we were very appreciative to the city helping make it happen.”

The Hawks would come away from that game with the very short end of the stick but Cox said it was good for her players to experience that kind of hockey.

“The kids still had positive attitudes and several of the (Yellowknife) players thanked us afterward for giving them the game and for coming,” she said.

The final contest came against another U15 Yellowknife house league team, the Kavanaugh Krushers, and that ended in favour of the Hawks, 5-2.

In summing up the weekend that was, Cox said it was good for her crew to get in some game action but also good that the Fort Smith and Hay River contingents were able to join up.

“Normally, we’re playing against each other so there’s a bit of that rivalry,” she said. “Nothing but positives as far as we’re concerned and I’m just glad it all worked out.”

Putting this together began just after Christmas, said Cox, and it was touch-and-go for the last few weeks.

“There are no tournaments in Alberta we could get into,” she said. “We could go to Calgary but that doesn’t work because we drive to all of our tournaments and we were unable to find anything in northern Alberta. We’ve been looking since the start of the season to take the kids somewhere to play.”

That’s where Tony Jones, another of the team’s coaches, polled the team’s parents about going somewhere and Yellowknife was agreed upon as the location, she added.

“We reached out to one of the U15 coaches in Yellowknife to see if there was an appetite for the U15 house league teams to play and it all worked out,” she said. “The teams allocated their scheduled ice times that weekend and it was still touch-and-go because of Covid-19 but we got everything in. I just hope this is a glimpse of normalcy for next season because the kids really miss playing games.”

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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