So, the past week brought two news items my way that had a deep impact on me for two very different reasons.
The first I, pretty much, knew was coming with the official cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) in Whitehorse, Yukon, this week due to public health concerns with the coronavirus or, more specifically in this case, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which first surfaced in Wuhan, Hubei, mainland China, in December 2019.
To break it down to its simplest form, the regional reaction to the AWG cancellation was either one of we live in fear in today’s world, or one of better safe than very, very sorry.
In the end the right decision was made, but it is one of deep, deep disappointment for hundreds of young athletes and their coaches, many of whom have logged countless hours at their sport in preparation for the event.
It is even more heartbreaking for those to whom the 2020 Games represented their only chance at ever competing at the AWG.
To them, they had their dream crushed in their here and now by something that seems like it’s another world away.
Having been around sports my entire life – growing up in a rural community and having spent the past 22 years in Rankin Inlet – I fully appreciate how much participating in an event such as the AWG meant to the youth in our region, as well as the rest of Nunavut and every other participating locale.
However, COVID-19 is nothing to be trifled with and is wreaking havoc in numerous countries.
The disappointment over the missed AWG will ease over time, which is far better than risking how much time you, and anyone you come in contact with, may actually have in the here and now today.
That was put painfully in perspective when news reached me that Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard had passed away this past week.
Bob was a true gentlemen in every sense of the word, and a man with a fierce love for the community he served and the people who call it home.
Bob’s path crossed with mine many times during the past two decades and he always left me with a smile on my face and the feeling that I mattered.
For about 15 years, every time I entered the arena in Arviat to officiate the Jon Lindell Memorial senior men’s hockey tournament, I was met by Mayor Leonard with a warm handshake and a welcoming smile.
Let me tell you folks, that means the world to an out-of-town official coming in to ref a community’s biggest hockey event of the year.
Bob was never one to duck a reporter’s questions and always did his best to answer any inquiry allowed by the laws of the land. And, if he didn’t know the answer when asked, he was quick to find out and get back to you with the information.
His accomplishments as mayor of Arviat for more than a decade are too numerous to properly give credit to in this space, but, suffice to say, he was one of the Kivalliq’s most successful political figures at the municipal level and he will be deeply missed – but never forgotten – in Arviat and across the region.
On a personal note – goodbye my friend. It was an honour to know you and I hope we meet again.