Almost all of the sporting focus right now is on the Arctic Winter Games at the end of the month, but there is another big event shortly following that.
That would be the Canada Winter Games at the end of February in Charlottetown, and Speed Skating NWT has named its team that will make the trip — and it will be as full a team as there’s ever been.
A total of nine skaters were introduced on Wednesday: Sage Acorn, Byran Clinton, Luke Dizon, Lochlan Dunn and Kaleb Picek will make up the men’s squad, while Maica McEachern, Rebecca Messier, Erika Pollard and Kali Skauge will take to the ice on the women’s side.
Kerry Egan, the team’s head coach, said the team was selected based solely on performance times.
“There’s a minimum time standard skaters have to meet in order to qualify,” she said. “We haven’t had a full team in past years because of that, but we will this year.”
The time standard is also a safety issue, she added.
“You don’t want a kid out there who can’t make the standard because that means they may not be stable enough,” she said.
The competition in Charlottetown will start with preliminary races in both the male and female divisions. From there, skaters will be placed in either the upper or lower brackets and will continue racing from there.
Egan said she knows there’s the possibility of some upper-bracket competition among the ranks.
“We have some who can punch up, but our kids will be able to stay competitive,” she said. “Taking a look at who’s going, I know we’ll be in there against Nunavut, Yukon, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and staying with the Prairie provinces. Ontario, Quebec and B.C. will have the deeper teams, of course, but we’ll be in there.”
A full complement of skaters means the NWT will be able to field two relay teams — male and female — for the first time in a long time. The previous two Canada Winter Games saw either/or entered for relays: a male team in 2019 in Red Deer, Alta., and a female team in 2015 in Prince George, B.C. That female team managed to make the A-side final and had a shot at a medal, but they finished fourth.
Egan said that’s perhaps the most exciting aspect of the team.
“At the age these kids are at, sometimes they don’t talk to each other and everything falls apart, to be honest,” she said. “Our kids all know each other, they’ve worked together and that’s something they’ll keep working on. Teamwork is one way we’ll be able to respond to the other teams.”
In terms of expectations, Egan said she wants to temper down any sort of goals. Unlike the Arctic Winter Games, where there are multiple age categories, there will only be one per gender in Charlottetown.
“I will tell you that we will be ready,” she said. “Being able to put together two full teams post-Covid is amazing and we’ll take every opportunity we get.”