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Catching pin mania at Winter Games

‘Normally I would never go talk to a person from Sapmi’
Cortland Sonnenberg, part of Alberta North’s curling squad, shows off the many pins he’s acquired during three appearances at the Arctic Winter Games. Stewart Burnett/NNL photo

Cortland Sonnenberg would normally not go out of his way to talk to a person from Sapmi.

“But yesterday I went to go talk to a person from Sapmi to get their pins,” said Sonnenberg, attending his third Arctic Winter Games for Alberta North as part of the men’s curling team.

Midway through the 2023 Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray, he was stationed at a table in the main lobby hawking his wide collection of pins for trade and taking offers from many passersby.

“It creates a really good atmosphere and sense of camaraderie from all the teams,” he said. “It really brings us together.”

The Games’ official pin-trading table was constantly full throughout the whole week, often with crowds of people in front trying to trade for their next set or seeing what other people were getting. Teams were all given their own pin sets, allowing them to trade with players from other jurisdictions to diversify their collection.

“What I’ve noticed is there’s been a whole lot of people not on their phones,” said Sonnenberg. “Back at the cafeteria at the lodge, no one is on their phones. They’re all looking at pins, they’re walking around.”

Rankin Inlet’s Makayla Kaludjak was looking forward to bringing some pins home from the Games for her friends.

“Most of my friends wanted to get a whole set,” she said.

Sonnenberg explained he would never trade pins for money, as that defeats the purpose, but set for the set is a lot of fun.

“I like to sit here and not move around,” he said smiling. “A lot of people will come over and take a look at my pins and see what they’re interested in and we’ll make a trade. It’s a lot of fun.”

Mark Eetuk, a youth ambassador for Nunavut, had a full lapel of pins by the end of the Games.

“It’s fun,” he said about the hobby. “I got this rare one, 2020 CBC North. I like it so much.”

Pins weren’t the only thing players were trading, either. By the end of the Games, many athletes had switched jackets with players from other jurisdictions, keeping treasured souvenirs from new friends after parting ways.