Yellowknifers are getting set for the four-day Hockey Day in Canada event that will take place from Feb. 5 to 8.

City of Yellowknife director of community services Grant White unveiled the schedule to much excitement among city staff earlier this month.

Answering a series of questions recently, Debbie Gillard, city clerk, said the city is looking forward to the four-day event after months of work since May 2019 when an organizing committee was formed.

City council approved the event last April. Gillard stated that much of the the city’s financial contributions will go toward “power, promotions and consultant fees.”

Among the other parties that the city worked with included representatives from Yellowknife Minor Hockey, Yellowknife Men’s Recreation Hockey, Hockey NWT, GNWT, Yellowknife Education 1 School District, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Scotiabank, Hockey North and JTFN 2.

“The exposure for Yellowknife as a tourist destination for Canadians is massive as the Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada event has grown each year of the last four years,” stated Gillard in an email.

“The 2019 event reached 9.6 million Canadians which equates to 1 in 4 Canadians tuning into the broadcast. The broadcast event will assist in increasing the awareness of Yellowknife as a tourist destination.”

The dates are within prime winter tourism day,s but Gillard said the dates were selected by Rogers Sportsnet and are typically held every year during the same time “to accommodate the All Sta r(game) break in the NHL schedule.”

Gillard said the GNWT has provided funding and personnel for the days’ organizing committee and that the business community has been supportive in different ways with “various sponsorship opportunities.”

The Hockey Day in Canada will include trips to two other public schools in the area: N.J. MacPherson School and Kalemi Dene School in Ndilo.
From left, Zachary Mandeville, Grade 5, Caelan Waddell, Grade 6, Ethan Bursey, Grade 6, Aiden Langer, Grade 5, Trenton Mackay, Grade 6, and Brett Mackinnon, Grade 6. The students showed some of their hockey jersey artwork. All classes we re involved in decorating the Weledeh/St. Patrick gymnasium in preparation for Hockey Day in Canada school festivities on  Feb. 6.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo
Landon Kowalzik, principal at N.J. Macpherson School said he is expecting “a fairly prescriptive” school assembly of one hour that will feature masters of ceremonies Ron MacLean and Tara Slone, as well as a viewing of the Stanley Cup.
“The biggest event for us is going to be on the Thursday,” Kowalzik. “We will be having an assembly here at N.J. and it is one of three they’re doing, with each one being slightly different but based on a similar model.”
The hour-long assembly will feature a question and answer with NHL alumni hockey players Wendel Clark, Lanny MacDonald, Darcy Tucker and Jamie Lee Rattray. Their presence will not include autograph signings.
There will be as many as five questions from students for the alumni based on a contest that will be taking place among students.
“The kids are excited and they don’t know all details yet. We are slowly releasing all of the information and those that are hockey fans are definitely excited. Those that aren’t as big of fans are excited still and they understand that it is a big event.”
There will also be a jersey day for students on the same day where the youngsters can wear their favourite jerseys, said Kowalzik.

“A lot of it is going to be just the alumni interacting a little with the students, sharing some stories about their experiences and just trying to pumping up the big televised events on Saturday,” he said.

From left, Zachary Mandeville, Grade 5, Ethan Bursey, Grade 6, Lupi the school mascot (Aiden Langer), Grade 5, Brett Mackinnon, Grade 6, Caelen Waddell, Grade 6 and Trenton Mackay, Grade 6 hang out at Tommy Forrest Park recently with their hockey sweaters. The Weledeh students are looking forward to Hockey Day in Canada festivities which will include a visit by NHL alumni on Feb. 6.
photo courtesy of Jenny Reid

Weledeh will be welcoming former Edmonton Oilers Fernando Pisani and Jason Strudwick, as well as former Olympian gold medal winner Cassie Campbell, and current Canadian Women’s Hockey League player Ann-Sophie Bettez at the Weledeh/St. Patrick School gymnasium.

Students were preparing for the big day on Thursday, including with some hockey jersey decorative artwork made by classrooms.

Hockey to me is just a fun sport and (Hockey Day) is going to be cool and exciting,” said Caelan Waddell, one Grade 6 student. “It will be a big thing and there are different hockey players coming to play. I am hoping to meet (former Edmonton Oiler) Paul Coffey because my dad is a big fan of Paul Coffey and he has told me how great he was.

Jenny Reid, principal said the day will be a big deal for her school community.

“We are hoping to really decorate the gym so that the gym looks festive and that it represents the passion that we have for hockey in Canada,” she said. “We are really stoked, and I think we are especially lucky to have female role models to help inspire all of our kids to participate in Canada’s favourite sport.”

Other Hockey Day activities will provide exposure for Northern artists, including musicians.

Diga (or Jesse James Gon) of Digawolf, was nominated this week for a Juno Award.

He also just wrapped up a gig as an official showcasing artist for Folk Alliance International in New Orleans. He said this week the Hockey Day in Canada will be an especially important show for him.

“It is an honour to play, in Yellowknife especially,” he stated in an email. “Representing my community nationally is always an amazing thing.

“Being that it is Hockey Day in Canada, I think this is more than just a national stage, it is an entirely new audience, which we are excited to speak to. For myself and the other artists performing, who live and work in the North, this is a great opportunity. But I do have to say, I am always proud to represent Yellowknife on any stage.

Another Northern artist, popular fiddler Wesley Hardisty, said he is looking forward to collaborating with Digawolf and the Dave Bidini Band, which is also another featured act from Toronto.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to perform and share the stage with the Dave Bidini Band,” he stated in an email, while also thanking Digawolf.
Hardisty has most recently been in Fort Simpson, teaching at the Kole Crook Fiddle Association’s 18th annual Fiddle Jamboree. He is also continuing to work with the fiddle association and Aurora Fiddle Society and is assisting in promotions, marketing and networking with the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre mentorship program in Yellowknife.
He also recently released a single tune called Stairs and has a fiddle album coming out on May 15.


Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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