So I was at the NWT Squash Championships wrap-up at the Racquet Club on Sunday afternoon … always plenty of fun and nice to be back covering squash, a sport that has been very good to me over the years.
A smaller crowd than normal for reasons I don’t think I have to get into (and won’t because there’s only so many times you can bang a head against a desk before it begin to hurt which, in my case, is 13) but a real sense of accomplishment among everyone involved. Kelli Ann McKim, the club’s general manager, was talking about how this past weekend was probably the only tournament of its sort happening anywhere in the country. You could see how proud she was of that.
She’s probably right because there hasn’t been a provincial/territorial championship anywhere in Canada I’ve seen. They’re playing over in Yukon but no Yukon Open this year. Once again, the NWT – and Yellowknife, in particular – bucks the trend and has another sporting event. If it’s me organizing it, I would rub it in the collective nose of the rest of the country but that’s why I’m not organizing anything. I am nothing if not spiteful.
But it is something that should be feted. We’ve been able to play sports up here while about three-quarters of the country continues to either play solitaire in their distanced hula hoops or perform yoga within a spray-painted circle. Sure, it’s activity but people are dying to play organized sport. That’s where we’ve been able to one-up millions of our fellow people – being able to play a game of hockey or play softball or play golf or whatever.
We’ve been able to have hockey games at the adult level with the Yk Rec Hockey League, Yk Oldtimers League, Yk Robins Women’s League and WIMPS doing their thing for most of the winter. It was modified, yes, but it was still hockey and very few, if any, people were complaining about it. I can recall talking with Devin Hinchey following the Yk Rec League playoffs and him telling me that if the players didn’t get it right, there would be no hockey. It was that simple – you either get on board with the rules you’ve been handed or you can watch from the sidelines … not literally but figuratively.
Then there was Gord Gibeau, who plays with Ron’s Auto in the oldtimers league. Recall that the league managed to have a tournament-style format for its playoffs in early April and how excited everyone was to have that happen. He said being able to do that was a privilege because it was happening exactly nowhere else in the country. I loved it because I got to go back to the rink and shoot an actual game since the Wade Hamer Challenge Cup in February 2020.
Now, it should be said that there was hockey going on in other parts of the North. Rankin Inlet had multiple tournaments this past season and the Iqaluit Hockey League was in the midst of its championship series before COVID-19 took hold in the Nunavut capital. I’m simply making the point about Yellowknife.
The Yk Basketball Association had a full season with seven teams and a rather exciting final. Talking with Aaron Wells, who oversees the league, and you got the sense that it didn’t matter who won or how it all played out. They got to play whereas no one else was playing basketball in Canada.
The Yk Adult Soccer League had a full season with a championship playoff. The Yk Galaxy and Yellowknife Bay Soccer Clubs all had a full schedule of activities. The Yellowknife Gymnastics Club was busy all winter long. The point I’m trying to make here is we’ve been lucky to have had so much take place and have it happen often.
It’s been a mixture of good judgment and common sense on the part of plenty of people but it all starts at the top with chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola. Say what you will about what she’s done but she did what she had to do at the start of this whole mess to ensure that we were able to play golf last May or play softball last June or tennis last June or go back to the rink this past October. Granted, we should be a bit further ahead than where we are now but we’ve been playing and that’s all that matters to me and many others.
So yes – we have been lucky and let’s continue to be lucky because I predict there will be some green grass on the other side in a few weeks.