Three prominent members of the Hay River Ski Club, secretary David MacDonald, left, biathlon coach and trails co-ordinator Chuck Lirette and former president Doug Swallow, hold a large photo of the late Pat Bobinski that hangs in the ski chalet, which is called Pat's Place in his honour as evidenced by the sign over the entrance. Cross-country skiing races at the club have also now been named in honour of Bobinski, who passed away in 2017.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Hay River now has newly-named cross-country ski races to honour the memory of a man who was dedicated to the sport.

The inaugural running of the Pat Bobinski Memorial Ski Races took place March 13-14.

They will be known informally as the PABs — which stands for Patrick Alexander Bobinski.

That is the new name of what had been previously known as the Ptub Ski Races, which were held in Hay River for 35 years until their final running in 2017.

“After a three-year hiatus, we’re hoping to kind of rebuild that energy from the Ptubs and carry it forward into the PABs,” said Chuck Lirette, the biathlon coach and trails co-ordinator with the Hay River Ski Club. “It’s kind of our showcase event that we have every year out here for our ski club.”

The name change for the races was because of a change of sponsors.

The Ptubs had been sponsored by the Ptarmigan Inn and The Hub, while the new sponsors are MSS Ltd. and Greenway Realty.

“The two sponsors, Greenway and MSS, got together and decided that they wanted to name the races after Pat,” said Lirette.

Karen Wall, the president of the Hay River Ski Club, said she is thrilled by the new name to honour Bobinski.

“He’s one of my favourite people and he was like a pillar here at the ski club,” Wall said. “So I’m really happy that we’re honouring his memory.”

Bobinski, who passed away in 2017, was a biathlon coach and renowned volunteer at the Hay River Ski Club.

His impact was even felt beyond Hay River, including serving for many years as president of the NWT Biathlon Association and promoting the sport in smaller communities.

Bobinski was the first coach for Olympic biathlete Brendan Green.

Originally from Manitoba, Bobinski first came to Hay River in 1966.

In a 2010 interview with News/North, he explained that his involvement in sports — biathlon, fast-pitch softball, shooting, hiking and more — was because a person must keep busy to stay healthy.

“The minute you start to slow down physically, psychologically you’re going to start to slow down also,” he said. “I really believe in a healthy body, healthy mind.”

Bobinski helped found the Hay River Shooting Club in the late 1960s and was also one of the head timers at the NWT Track and Field Championships.

In 2007, he was recognized by the GNWT as the outstanding elder volunteer of the year.

Following his passing, Bobinski was inducted into the NWT Sport Hall of Fame as a builder in biathlon.

As an indication of his impact on the Hay River Ski Club, there is a sign over the entrance to the ski chalet proclaiming that it is Pat’s Place.

David MacDonald, the secretary of the Hay River Ski Club, said Bobinski wasn’t one of the founders of the club but was there in the early days.

“Pat really got the biathlon aspect of it going and that’s why we ended up with the nice lanes over there,” said MacDonald.

Bobinski also looked after the trails for many years.

With the new name for the races, it brings to an end a long run for the Ptub Ski Races.

MacDonald said the Ptubs were a big event for the club.

“That gave a lot of exposure to our new ski club,” he said of when the races began in the 1980s.

Lirette said there were no races in 2018 because volunteers were working on the Arctic Winter Games, and none in 2019 because of unseasonably warm weather and none last year because of Covid-19.

The first PABs would likely have been held in 2020, except for Covid-19.

More than 50 skiers from Hay River and Yellowknife registered for the inaugural PABs.

The event featured classic races on March 13 and freestyle races on March 14.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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