Up until a few weeks ago it had been almost six months since Arviat’s hockey players had taken to the ice. That all changed with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions on April 12.
The following day the arena opened its doors for the first game of 2021.
“Lots of people showed up, but people showed up half dressed so they can just put skates on and play,” said Andrew Kuksuk, the community’s recreation coordinator, who also plays on one of the senior men’s teams.
The arena had to close for the first time in March 2020 due to COVID-19. Hockey was allowed to resume briefly in November but as cases numbers went up in Arviat, everything had to be shut down again.
Kuksuk said the senior men’s league got about five games in before the November shutdown. With the ice open again they have been trying to squeeze in as many games as possible.
In addition to senior men’s teams, the bantams and the atoms are also trying to get back to their normal hockey routine.
Pierre Ikahik,who has two sons that play hockey, went to watch the first senior men’s game on April 13.
Although he no longer plays goalie, he said the lack of hockey and other recreation has been devastating for the community’s youth.
“My youngest one, he’s 11 now. He was picked for Kivalliq Canucks atoms. We were going to go to Winnipeg for one week before it was cancelled,” said Ikakhik.
“My youngest was broken-hearted. He was so excited to go but it go stopped by Covid-19.”
The sentiments of Ikakhik’s son are shared by most of the community’s hockey players and fans alike. Ikakhik pointed to the cancellation of the annual John Lindell Memorial Tournament.
“Lots of people weren’t too happy about that,” he said.
Although players had to show up already dressed at first, the hamlet has figured out a way for them to be socially distanced in the dressing rooms.
The community is maintaining strict restrictions on the number of people that can be in the arena at once, with the capacity capped at 50.
“We have sign-in sheets that say what time people came in and what time they go out,” said Kuksuk.
“Next season I hope we’ll have a regular seasons where we can entertain our fans and they can cheer us on.”
Ikakhik said he almost missed the chance to get into the arena due to the limits.
“There were too many people so I couldn’t go in, so I had to wait to get in.”
Although it’s good to be back on the ice, it’ll likely be less than a few weeks before the ice starts to melt.
“Even the roads are melting now,” said Ikakhik. ”I wish we had artificial ice so we could keep going.”