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Nothing better than gold

Watching Team Nunavut win it all was amazing

We cover a lot of things in journalism.

At daily papers, a reporter typically writes one to three stories per day – up to 15 a week. At weeklies, it’s a little less, but still upwards of 10 pieces of content every week.

We write about a lot of inspiring people, interesting ideas and impressive youth. Much of it blends into the haze of life as we bounce from one interview to another, with yesterday’s news already seeming eons ago.

But for the U19 Team Nunavut hockey squad to win gold, that one stood out.

I was lucky enough to travel with the Nunavut athletes on their charter and document the team’s run to the gold medal game. I’ve covered a lot of sports events, and much of the time I don’t even keep close track of the scores in each game, just getting my pictures and quotes. That’s not to be dismissive of the events, but it’s a statement on the reality that pumping out content is work for us. This tournament was different, though.

Watching Team Nunavut over several games, I came to love the players and makeup of the team. Kadin Eetuk reminded me a lot of Brad Marchand – so feisty, fast but supremely skilled. I saw him agitating the Alaska players early in the gold medal final, and noticed them complaining to the refs multiple times. He’s that special player who can throw other teams off their game yet still has top-flight skill.

Kobe Tanuyak is a giant, of course. But he has great hands and hustled hard on backchecks, showing he wasn’t purely size. He was a dominating player all week and I’m sure opponents groaned seeing him come over the boards every time.

Micah Emiktowt was another favourite of mine. His speed in the semifinals game against Team NT was a difference maker. The guy was going 100 miles an hour everywhere. The whole of Team Nunavut was unrelenting in that game, which they won 7-2. Team NT was drowning from the start and never got up.

This Nunavut team was deep. Prime Paniyuk, Koby Connelly, Ray Jr. Pudlat, Maximus Ammaq, Chase Harron – the list goes on. They were line after line of energy, talent and hustle. Gregory Wiseman is a rising star – lanky as the 6’ 16-year-old develops, but has some sick hands.

Or what about some of the hits Sandy Tattuinee laid out, like that big one in the finals? The way he banged his stick on the ice after was the perfect accent on top.

Russell Matoo, Terence Pilakapsi, Justin Issakiark and Steven Nowdlak all contributed to the wins as well, backstopped by a great Arviat tandem in Tucker St. John and Jimmy Ollie.

Team Nunavut was a scary team. As coach David Clark said, they played as a team too. They were feisty – and I heard many people at the games mention how aggressive Nunavut was – but skillful, fast and never gave up.

It’s going to be hard for Team Nunavut to top this squad at the 2024 Arctic Winter Games. There were no holes in it. But with the development program they have going on here, I’d have my money on them to go back to back.