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Annual Hockey Challenge to honour legendary fans in Rankin Inlet

A new hockey game promises to be a big hit with fans and players alike when the Rankin Rock peewee team splits into two club teams to play the first annual Team (Tommy) Misheralk vs. Team (Moses) Aliyak Hockey Challenge in Rankin Inlet on Feb. 8.

The game will be played from 2:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the annual salute to the game known as Hockey Day in Canada.

Anyone who knows anything about local hockey in Rankin Inlet realizes the two deceased super fans the peewee teams are being named after were part of a group of  hockey-loving elders who always occupied the same section of the bleachers (take a hard left after entering rink side) at the old Rankin arena when watching local hockey games.

Former Whale Cove mayor Stanley Adjuk, right, chats with hockey super fan the late Tommy Misheralak, who is being honoured along with the late elder and fellow superfan Moses Aliyak in the Rankin Rock peewee team’s first annual Team Misheralak vs. Team Aliyak Hockey Challenge in Rankin Inlet on Feb. 8, 2020. Photo courtesy of Stanley Adjuk

And these guys watched a lot of local hockey.

Didn’t matter if it was minor, junior or senior hockey, the elder group rarely missed a game for many a year and became almost celebrities in their own right for their love and dedication to the sport.

Robert Kabvitok is behind organizing the Hockey Challenge, and he said the idea developed after he started coaching peewee hockey when he felt it was time to move away from volleyball, which he had coached for years in Rankin with Holly Mercer.

Kabvitok said when coaching, he’s always looking for something new for kids to look forward to.

He said he looked at the Team (Bobby) Orr vs. Team (Don) Cherry format for major junior’s top prospects and immediately saw a local comparison – a quick call to Troy Aksalnik produced the family names of the two brothers, put them on the same page and started the puck sliding.

“We thought of those two respected elders, who had been in the old arena all those years watching so much local hockey with their group of friends. and I thought the same format could be used here for the peewee players to pay tribute to the two brothers, Misheralak and Aliyak,” said Kabvitok.

“I asked the parents of the peewee group and they liked the idea, so we got it started.”

The Rankin Rock peewee players will be split in such a way as to make the two teams as evenly matched as possible.

Kabvitok said it’s a great time to launch the game because there’s so many Misheralak and Aliyak family members among the current cast of peewee players.

He said he spoke to the families to get their input, and things are moving in the direction of making the Hockey Challenge an annual event to give the younger players a big game to work toward and get excited over as they move through atoms to peewees.

“Everyone knows Misheralak, Aliyak, (Simon) Twyee and the rest of the hockey elders who always sat in the same corner of the old arena watching hockey,” said Kabvitok.

“They were Rankin’s biggest hockey fans and they were always there, even when it was -60 C in that old barn.

“The two families were excited, speechless and a little overwhelmed by it, so that made everyone pretty happy about the idea.

“The families requested the two teams wear the sweaters of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens – so we’re going to have to start writing letters to have a sponsor in place for the game, which seems like it’s going to be very well received by the community.”