For the past 15 years, Gleason Uppahuak has spent countless hours organizing and overseeing hockey programs in Arviat – and he wasn’t doing it for accolades.

Uppahuak was doing it for his love of the game. A game that’s been with him for his entire life.

Gleason Uppahuak of Arviat accepts his Commissioner’s Award for Volunteering in recognition of his 15 years of dedication to Kivalliq hockey programs from Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak in Arviat on May 22. photo courtesy Gleason Uppahuak

And, when he got word he was receiving a Commissioner’s Award for all those years of dedication to the game he loves so much – and those who play it – his heart swelled with pride.

Uppahuak, 33, said he was humbled to receive the Commissioner’s Award, but he can’t deny how good it felt to have his efforts recognized at such a level.

He said as the time to walk up and accept the award from Nunavut Commissioner Nellie Kusugak drew near, all he could think about was the people he spent so much time with at the arena over the years; as their faces passed in front of his mind’s eye and their contributions to Kivalliq hockey once again warmed his heart.

All I could think about was that I had to thank all my helpers, especially my wife (Frances) who’s been there with me since day one,” said Uppahuak. “They all played such an important role in me getting this award – my fellow coaches with the Arviat Wolves, the minor hockey group in Arviat, David Clark with the Junior Canucks program, and my colleagues with Hockey Nunavut, especially Darrin Nichol and Mike MacPherson, who taught me a lot and were on my side since I first got involved with minor hockey in Arviat.”

And last, but not least, Jim Ramsay and Ryan St. John – all the sponsors who have been kind enough to sponsor the hockey events I’ve been involved in during the past 15 years,” he continued. “I have to mention Calm Air. When you look at how many Kivalliq sports tournaments have Calm Air on their championship, you have to appreciate what the airline does for sports in the region.”

Uppahuak said none of the people who work so hard and volunteer so much of their time to sports do it to win awards.

But at the same time, he said, it feels good to have your efforts recognized.

The biggest thing for Uppahuak, he said, with the teams, programs and tournaments he’s been involved with, was growing each one and making them better every year.

When you look at the structure of hockey, from local minor hockey, to regional programs, and then to Hockey Nunavut (Zone) and the Branch (Hockey North), it takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it because it works and, these days, you have to do things by the rules,” he said. “I don’t mind saying David (Clark) and I are heavily involved with Kivalliq hockey, and you have to spend many hours at it if you want your program, team or tournament to be the best it can be.”

Uppahuak said he can’t pick one event he’s been involved with and say it’s his favourite, not even the Jon Lindell Memorial (Calm Air Cup).

He looks at all of them fondly and equally, he said.

I just love hockey so much that every event is the same to me,” he said. “All the kids I coached since they were five or six years old – then they get selected to the Arctic Winter Games or the National Aboriginal Championship – they say my name when asked who was their coach growing up, and that touches my heart very deeply.”

Accepting this award was one of the proudest moments of my life,” he continued. “And, the award has given me even more motivation to make the hockey I’m involved with even better.”

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