Anyone who’s attended a hockey tournament in Rankin Inlet knows the passion recreation director David Clark has for his hometown and territory.
He frequently ends closing ceremonies by thanking “the best fans” of Rankin Inlet, and he was the coach to lead the U19 men’s team to the territory’s first hockey gold at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games earlier this year.
At the heart of every recreation activity or event in the Kivalliq capital is Clark, whose commitment to youth and sport is key to the heartbeat of the community.
But the 35-year-old, born-and-raised Rankinmiut is finally leaving his hometown this summer to pursue a dream of his own – one he shelved for many years as his focus was on family and his home.
“I really care about the youth in our community and giving the best opportunities for them that we can offer,” said Clark, who’s preparing to leave for a sport coaching and management program in Haaga-Helia, a university in Finland.
As he has encouraged youth to follow their dreams for years, he’s now taking his own advice.
“I talk a lot about following dreams and going after your aspirations, so I need to remember to do that myself,” said Clark. “No matter the age, it’s important for people to continue to develop and grow even in their adulthood. So many times, we get stuck in what we’re doing, and we all have goals and dreams. Who am I to say that to kids to follow their passion and follow their dreams, but yet I have my own that I’m not following?”
And this has been his dream since he was 20 years old. The university’s webpage link has been in his computer’s favourites bar ever since, and every year when applications open up, he thinks about whether the time is right to apply. Finally, it was, and after a series of interviews and assignments, he was accepted to the two-year program, which includes a third practicum year.
“I had a young family, and a lot of times, it just didn’t feel like the right time. I had a lot of prior commitments and I just didn’t feel like it was time to go,” said Clark. “But I always had it in the back of my mind, and it was always something I’ve dreamed of doing.”
He’ll be leaving this August and taking his wife and youngest son along with him.
“Getting the official news this spring was pretty overwhelming and exciting,” he said.
Part of his excitement is learning more about how Finland develops its hockey programs, as he compares the country with Nunavut in its small population but surprisingly strong hockey players.
He’ll be living in Finland from August to May, returning to Rankin Inlet for the summers.
“I made a commitment to go to this program and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Clark. “I’m most excited about learning and growing, as a coach, as a person, as a father. I’m looking forward to the new experiences and learning how they do things. I’ve always had a very strong admiration for Finnish hockey. They’re one of the hockey powers that has a very small population, so I can relate to it a lot working within Nunavut.”
With his mind always on improving Nunavut recreation and hockey, he wants to take what he learns and make hockey in the territory even better. That said, Clark is attending the program with no exact future career aspirations: he’s going in with an open mind and looking to develop himself as a person.
And along with that, he hopes his absence will provide an opportunity for others to develop themselves, too.
“I know that I’m a lot better recreation director now than I was 16 years ago, and the community has allowed me to grow as a person and within my position also,” said Clark.
Despite his love for Nunavut hockey, he’s not upset to be missing the 2024 Arctic Winter Games. He says it will be an important opportunity for other coaches to grow.
“I had my chance,” he said. “I’m always going to be connected to Team Nunavut and I believe one day, I’ll be back to coach other teams, but for this year, it’s OK. I set a goal to win a gold medal with that (AWG) team, and we did it. So for me to take a step back in that role, I think it’s a good time, gives other people opportunities.”
When he first started in his position, Clark made a list – closely guarded – of goals he wanted to see for Rankin Inlet. Those included the arena, new playgrounds, soccer turf, basketball court and the aforementioned hockey gold. But there’s one more he hasn’t achieved yet: a swimming pool.
“We’re trying to make Rankin a healthy place to live and give youth and our community members recreation activities they can do to feel good about themselves and feel healthy,” he said. “You don’t have a healthy community without a healthy recreation program.”
He thanked the municipality for providing so much freedom and opportunity to grow, as well as his family, loved ones and community members for their support.
“At the end of the day, I always felt my job was to try and make Rankin a better place,” said Clark. “That’s my mindset coming into work every day.”
“I know I’ll be a better person for it,” he said, adding that it’s not a goodbye to Rankin, but a ‘see you later.’
“Rankin is my home. It’s always going to be my home. I’m very proud to be from here. It’s a special palace in my heart and I’ll always consider it home, and I’ll be back.”
ᐱᖑᐊᖅᑐᓕᕆᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᑐᑭᒧᐊᖅᑎᑦᑎᔨ ᑕᐃᕕᑎ ᑲᓚᓐ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔭᐅᑦᑎᐊᖅᐳᖅ Hᐊᑭᖅᑎᓄ ᐊᓕᐊᓇᐅᒍᓱᖕᓂᕐᒥᓂ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒥᓂᒃ, ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒥᐅᓄᑦ.
ᑲᑎᖓᓂᖃᖅᑐᖃᓕᕌᖓᒥ ᐅᑯᐊᖅᑎᐸᒃᐸᖓ ᖁᔭᓕᓪᓗᓂ ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒥᐅᓄᑦ, ᐱᓕᒻᒪᒃᓴᐃᔨᐅᓚᐅᖅᖢᓂᓗ U19 Hᐊᑭᖅᑎᓄᓐ ᓵᓚᒃᓴᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᓪᓗᑎᒃ ᑰᓗᒥᒃ 2023 ᐅᑭᐅᖅᑕᖅᑐᒥᑦ ᐱᖑᐊᔪᐊᖃᑕᐅᓂᖅ ᐊᕋᒍᒋᓵᖅᑕᑦᑎᓐᓂ.
ᐱᖑᐊᖅᑐᓕᕆᓂᕐᒧ ᑭᕙᓪᓕᕐᒥ ᑲᓚᒃ, ᐱᓕᕆᓂᖃᑦᑎᐊᖅᓯᒪᕗᖅᒪᒃᑯᑦᑐᓄᑦ, ᐱᖑᐊᖅᑐᓕᕆᓂᕐᒧᓪᓗ ᖃᐅᔨᒪᓪᓗᓂ. 3-ᓂᑦ ᐊᕋᒍᓕᒃ ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒥ ᐱᕈᖅᓴᔪᖅ ᓄᒃᑎᖅᑐᕐᓂᐊᓕᕋᒥ ᐱᔪᒪᔭᓂ ᐊᑐᕐᓗᓂᐅᒃ – ᓄᓕᐊᓂ ᕿᑐᖓᓂᓪᓗ
ᒪᒃᑯᒃᑐᑦ ᐱᒻᒪᕆᐅᖕᒪᑕ, ᐱᔪᒪᔭᖏᓐᓂᓪᓗ ᐱᓕᕆᐊᒃᓴᖃᖅᑎᓐᓇᓱᒃᐸᒃᖢᓂᒡᔪᒃ ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᑲᓚᒃ. ᐸᕐᓇᒃᑐᖅ
ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕆᐊᓕᖅᖢᓂᓗ ᐱᓕᒻᒪᒃᓴᐃᓂᕐᒧᑦ, ᑲᒪᔨᐅᓂᕐᒧᓪᓗ ᓯᓚᑦᑐᖅᓴᕐᕕᒡᔪᐊᕐᒧᑦ, ᕕᓐᓚᓐ-ᒥᑦ. ᒪᑯᒃᑐᓂ ᐃᑲᔪᖅᑐᐃᖏᓇᕋᓱᒃᐸᒃᑲᒥ ᐱᔪᒪᔭᕐᒥᓂ ᐱᓇᓱᖁᔨᓪᓗᓂ ᐊᕋᒍᒐᓴᖕᓄᑦ.
20-ᓂ ᐊᕋᒍᖃᖅᑎᓪᓗᒍ ᐱᔪᒪᓕᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᕙᖓ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕆᐊᕈᒪᓪᓗᓂ ᑐᕌᕈᑎᖓᓗ ᐱᓯᒪᐃᓐᓇᖅᖢᓂᐅᒃ ᖃᕋᓴᐅᔭᒃᑯᑦ, ᐊᕋᒍᑕᒪ ᐃᓱᒪᒋᕙᒃᖢᓂᐅᒃ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕆᐊᓗᐅᓕᕐᒪᖔ, ᐱᖏᐊᑕᐃᓇᖅᐸᖓ, ᐊᖏᖅᑕᐅᓪᓗᓂᓗ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᓂᐊᓕᖅᑐᖅ ᐊᕋᒍᓄᑦ ᒪᕉᖕᓄᑦ. ᐃᓚᖃᕐᓗᒍ ᐃᖃᓇᐃᔭᕐᓗᓂᓗ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᓯᒻᑦ ᐊᕋᒍᑦ ᐱᖓᔪᖓᓐᓂᑦ.
ᒪᑯᒃᑲᑦᑕ ᖃᑕᖑᑎᒌᒃᑎᒍᑦ, ᓇᒪᒃᓯᐊᓂᓚᐅᖅᓯᒪᕉᔨᖏᒻᒪᑦ ᐃᓕᓐᓂᐊᕐᕕᒃᓴᕋ, ᐅᖃᖅᐳ ᑲᓚᐅᒃ. ᑭᓯᐊᓂ ᐱᔪᒪᓂᕇᓇᐅᔭᖅᑕᕋ ᑕᒪᓐᓇ.
ᐊᐅᓪᓚᓚᖅᐳᑦ ᐊᐅᒍᓯᒥᑦ ᒪᐃᒧᑦ. ᐅᑎᖅᑕᖃᑦᑕᓚᖅᑐᖅ ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᕐᒧᑦ ᐊᐅᔭᖑᕌᖓᑦ.
ᖃᐅᔨᒪᔪᖓ ᐃᓄᕈᖅᐹᓪᓕᕐᓂᐊᑐᖓ ᐅᑎᕈᒪ, ᐅᖃᖅᐳᖅ ᑕᕙᐅᕗᑏᑐᐃᓇᐅᖕᒪᑦ ᐅᑎᓛᕐᒥᔪᖓ. ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ ᓄᓇᖏᖕᒪᔾᔪᒃ ᐊᖏᕋᕇᓇᐅᔭᕐᓂᐊᖅᑕᖓᒍᖅ.