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Growing the game in Arviat

The decision to extend the Jon Lindell Memorial (JLM) Calm Air Cup senior men's hockey tournament to include a series of skills-development camps was a popular one among the youth registered in the Arviat minor hockey program this past month.

Scott Forcand of Winnipeg directs a group of peewee players as his assistant, Gleason Uppahuak, far left, looks on during a series of hockey camps in Arviat on Jan. 29. photo courtesy of Gleason Uppahuak

The organizer of the JLM, Gleason Uppahuak, said it was time to grow the tournament and make it more of a total community event by having something special to offer the kids.

He said running the three-day camps immediately following the JLM went over well in the community, and it got the kids on the ice while they were still pumped about the weekend tournament.

"We unofficially refer to it as the Calm Air Hockey Days, with the skills-development camps being made possible by the partnership of Calm Air, Hockey Nunavut and Arctic Connection," said Uppahuak.

"This was something very special for the kids in Arviat who are into hockey, and they ate up every minute of ice time we had available during the camps.

"It was focused on skills, so they worked hard on improving their skating, puck-handling and shooting skills.

"Our instructor was Scott Forcand of Winnipeg, a former junior and senior player, and he did an awesome job.

"Scott is also a goalie, so our young goalies were pumped to learn from someone like him and they all had a really great time."

The coaches involved with Arviat's minor hockey program helped Forcand run the on-ice sessions, and they also picked up some tips on running better practices for their age group.

Uppahuak said about 85 young Arviat players benefited from the camps.

He said it's always important to make learning fun when players are focused on skills development, and Forcand kept the youths engaged and constantly active during each session.

"I was impressed with how he (Forcand) delivered each camp in multiple stages that kept all the kids busy throughout each session, because you never a saw a kid out on the ice just standing around, not doing anything.

"Every one of our young players enjoyed the sessions, and they're already looking forward to the camp returning next year.

"It was nice to see our partners come together to make this happen – with Hockey Nunavut paying for the actual on-ice sessions, consulting fees and the jerseys the kids received, Calm Air covering the flights involved and Arctic Connection covering the remaining costs – and give our kids three days of hockey fun and learning that they won't soon forget.

"We're hoping to keep this format going every year now and, if possible, extend it to include Baker Lake, but I'll have to have discussions with potential partners in that community as to the interest in hosting a mid-season camp there."