Numbers were high at the annual Northwestel Rankin Rock season-opening hockey camp, with more than 200 youth taking part in the five-day camp Oct. 19-23 in Rankin Inlet.
Camp developer and head instructor David Clark said the week went extremely well.
He said it was nice to have the players available all day during the camp, which makes it easier for the participants and coaches alike.
“This past year, with the rink starting up late, we didn’t have the camp held during the school professional development week, and we offer them a better program during the camp when we have them for full days” said Clark.
“We started on-ice instruction each day at 9 a.m. and finished each night at about 9:30 p.m., so they were long days on the ice.
“You’d get a quick little break each time the Zamboni went on to clean the ice between age levels, but half the time you’d have parents looking for information on this or that, which would eat up a good chunk of it.”
Clark, who is also the hamlet’s recreation co-ordinator, said he was happy with how everyone conducted themselves at the arena during the camp.
He said there are a still a few things left to be figured out , but, all in all, people are following the rules in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“For the most part, the majority of folks who have come to the arena have been super good in following the rules.
“Part of the plan this past week was also educating the kids on what you can and cannot do at the rink these days, and that was one of our lessons with the literacy group, as well.
“Things aren’t the same right now and you can’t just go to the rink and hang out anymore, like so many of the kids like to do here in Rankin.
“The Covid restrictions are tough on everyone, but we need to keep following the rules if we want to keep going.”
Clark said it was about seven months since the kids last played hockey at the start of the camp, so spirits were pretty high among the players.
He said there was a good deal of over excitement going on amongst many of the kids during the first day of the camp, but they quickly got that out of their systems and focused on the instruction they were receiving on the ice and during their other learning modules.
“The kids just kept getting better and better as the week went on, and they were all, pretty much, honed in on what they were learning.
“The sheer number of kids at the camp had us going flat out this year. This just continues to keep growing every year and we’re, pretty much, reaching our limits with some of it, which is both good and bad.
“Hockey is really accessible in Rankin. We’re doing gear drives, registration fees are low and it seems like more people than ever are getting involved with the game here, which is great.
“But, there is a certain point where it becomes impossible to offer a good program if the number of participants grows too high.”
Each age level has its own group leaders during the camp, and Clark said the leaders did another great job this year.
He said about 90 per cent of the group leaders at one time went through the camp themselves and know the routine pretty well.
“Another area I’m blown away with is the increase in female players in Rankin. In my age group coming up through hockey, there was Gloria Kaludjak, who was one of the best players around, and, pretty much, no one else.
“You look this year and and we had 14 girls in one group and 16 in another — with more than 60 girls in total participating — and it’s almost unbelievable the rapid growth of the sport among girls in Rankin.
“I don’t know how and why it happened, but the number of girls playing hockey in Rankin from when I was a kid until now has changed drastically and most of these girls really come to play.
“The ones who started at the same age as the boys are just as good as the boys, they’re competitive, they come to work hard and they have goals of making the Arctic Winter Games. It’s a little harder on some who started later, but they’re enjoying the sport and having fun playing too and that’s what it’s all about.”