If this had been a regular sports section, you would be reading about how teams won their respective divisions at the Canadian North Rec Hockey Tournament this past weekend.

Similarly, you would have read about how teams won their divisions the weekend before at the Canadian North Balsillie Cup oldtimers hockey tournament.

But this isn’t a regular sports section and those tournaments didn’t happen. We’re  left wondering what’s to be.

Both tournaments fell victim to the wave of cancellations due to COVID-19 and while they’re being fondly missed by some players, the reason why they were cancelled is more than understood.

Tehnille Gard would have played in both tournaments as she did one year ago. She played in the inaugural women’s division at the Balsillie Cup in 2019, where she played forward, and then reverted back to her natural position – goaltender – with the Ollerhead Elks for the rec hockey edition.

Tehnille Gard stops a point shot for the Ollerhead Elks during B division action in the Canadian North Rec Hockey Tournament at the Multiplex in April 2019. Gard played in that tournament, as well as the Canadian North Balsillie Cup the weekend prior, and missed playing in both this year.
NNSL file photo

She said she missed both tournaments big time.

“It just abruptly ended and I was looking forward to both, like a lot of us were,” she said. “We had around eight or so teams ready to play in the women’s division for the Balsillie Cup and then we got the news. We weren’t expecting cancellation but it happened.”
Austin Daniels is still some years away from playing in the Balsillie Cup but he was ready to suit up for the Weaver and Devore Marauders for the rec tournament. Daniels was the hero in last year’s A division championship game for the Marauders, scoring the tournament winner in sudden-death double overtime against the Diggerz Bandits of Hay River.

He said it’s disappointing to not play but he understands why.

“The Easter tournament is what you look forward to each year but you have to make sure everyone’s safe, especially now,” he said.

Ryan Nichols would have also pulled double-duty on consecutive weekends and he said the one thing he noticed this year is how not in pain he was when he woke up on what would have been the Monday morning following the rec tournament.

“I woke up feeling a lot better than I normally would,” he said. “You play the whole (Yk Rec League) season for this and for it to be cancelled is a bummer but the right call was made.”
Nichols also serves as president of the rec hockey league and had a say in making the final decision on whether to move ahead with this past weekend. Obviously, they didn’t as the organizers pulled the plug shortly after the cancellation of the Arctic Winter Games in March.

He said it was a strong case of better safe than sorry.

“We chose to cancel it early because of so many out-of-town teams making reservations for flights and hotels,” he said. “We wanted to give them time to make arrangements and not have them come all the way to Yellowknife only to have the tournament cancelled as soon as they got here.”

If given an option to play or not to play, both Gard and Daniels would have said yes.

“If there was a way, let’s do it, but the right call was made in the end because you just can’t take the risk,” said Gard.

Daniels agreed.

“I would have voted yes, like a lot of the other guys probably would have, but it’s for the best,” he said. “We have to watch out for each other because we’re all going through it. It would have been nice to get some revenge on Fuel Flo, though, for beating us in the rec league playoffs.”

Daniels is referring to the A division playoff final as Fuel Flo beat the Marauders in the championship game, 4-2.

Nichols, who also plays for the Marauders, said he, too, wanted another crack at Fuel Flo but that will have to wait.

“We have two good champions with Fuel Flo in A and Kasteel Construction in the B division so congrats to them,” he said. “As for next season, we’re just going to wait and see what Hockey Canada does. We can have our annual general meeting by video-conference, which is how we’ve been having our regular board meetings, but it’s wait-and-see right now.”

While it’s tough to give up hockey on such short notice, Gard said there are better days ahead.

“We’ll get through this,” she said. “We’re all doing what we can and that’s all we can do.”

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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