First off I’d like to thank everyone for the comments, thoughts and plain-old fun of reliving some most excellent Kivalliq hockey moments from a piece I penned this past month (Ref recalls special moments in Kivalliq hockey, Kivalliq News, April 9).
I’ll start with a story that features a man I considered to be a very good friend of mine – who the good Lord called home way too soon earlier this month – Louie Tattuinee, and add another if space permits.
I was playing goal for a Rankin team that flew to a tournament in Kuujjuaq, Quebec, in 1999, and, to say we were a little overmatched at the event would be being quite kind to us.
However, we were a Rankin Inlet team, damn it, and when the quarter finals rolled around we were still standing and in tough against a very good Pangnirtung squad.
Believe me when I tell you folks, we played the game of our lives against that team and were leading 2-1 with only about seven minutes left to go when Pang dumped the puck into our end on a line change.
A guy, I don’t recall his name, we picked up because Joachim Ayaruak felt sorry for him when only six players from his team showed up for the tourney, ended up with the puck behind our net.
There was one Pang player, their captain, deep in our end, standing low in the slot to put pressure on whichever winger our guy made an outlet pass to along the boards – but oh did our guy have different ideas!
He looked over at one of our wingers, Andy Aliyak, nodded toward centre ice and hollered, “Go!”
My mind had just enough time to mutter, “No, he wouldn’t…” when the Pang captain knocked down the pass up the middle and rifled it behind me before I got past my disbelief.
The Pang players were celebrating when Louie (Tattuinee) showed up out of nowhere right in front of me; his face only inches from mine, his eyes the size of golf balls and through clenched teeth he hissed, “I was gonna punch him right in the mouth.”
A few minutes later, with Pang now up by two, I went to our bench on a timeout. Louie was sitting next to the guy on the bench as I leaned on the boards looking at all the dejected faces.
Louie turned to the guy calm and sincere, like they were two buddies having a beer together, and gently inquired, “So, hockey’s not your first sport, eh?”
I was Louie’s friend for life right then, right there.
A few years later I was reffing the Johnny Kook Memorial in Whale Cove, which I loved back in the day because it was a highly-competitive event that was the toughest, physically speaking, little tournament of the year.
My arch nemesis at the time, Gary Sigurdson, was on a Rankin team missing a number of its top players due to work commitments, and they were in tough against a Naujaat squad, if memory serves, in the quarter final.
If Gary was on the ice during that game, you could be sure he was either in my face or on his way towards me to be so. Now, as a referee, I didn’t give a darn which team ever won a game I called, but I must admit I was nowhere near heartbroken when Rankin lost that game and I was done with Mr. Sigurdson for that particular weekend – or so I thought!
I came out to work the next game and no sooner did my spider sense suddenly go into freaked-out overdrive when I heard an all-too-familiar voice behind me say, “Hello, Mr. Ref.”
And there he was, Mr. Sigurdson, dressed in the colours of another team, and looking my way with that evil little smile on his face that he saved just for me.
A few panicked questions later we learned that then mayor Stanley Adjuk – who I thought genuinely liked me! – had given Gary permission to play with another team to pay back a time the Whale team was helped out in a Rankin tourney, so he felt obligated to say yes.
So we did what any self-respecting team of officials would do, we took our whistles and went home.
But that’s a story for another day.