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Huge hockey gear donation for Gjoa Haven

Gjoa hockey
Parents and children wait in line in Gjoa Haven on Feb. 14 to get fitted with hockey equipment. The gear was flown into the community by Hockey North and was donated by Canadian Tire's Jumpstart program. photo courtesy of Matt Gee

No matter what community you call home in Nunavut, there is always a need for sporting gear for youth to be able to play.

In Gjoa Haven, that problem was solved somewhat late last month as plenty of new youth hockey equipment was delivered courtesy of the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program.

And it was all a case of sheer luck as you'll see.

Katlyn Chaloner, who works at the community learning centre, grew up playing hockey and was wondering if there were any women who played in the community.

“I put up a post on Facebook asking if there was any interest in a drop-in night for women's hockey,” she said. “I had so many responses about people who used to play and how there used to be a women's team here.”

In all, Chaloner estimated that around 30 women were interested in playing but there was one problem: lack of gear.

This is where our story really begins.

“I was told to get in touch with Tracy Starnes, who does community relations with Sabina Gold and Silver, and I was told that they're always looking to sponsor community projects,” said Chaloner. “They were on board and some other companies were as well."

Altogether, Chaloner was able to get $10,000 worth of donations toward getting adult equipment and jerseys flown in. She got in touch with Kyle Kugler, Hockey North's executive director, to see if there was any way he could help.

Katlyn Chalofer, left, checks with Kendrick Anavilok on his glove size during an equipment fitting at the community arena on Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of Matt Gee
Katlyn Chaloner, left, checks with Kendrick Anavilok on his glove size during an equipment fitting at the community arena on Feb. 14. Photo courtesy of Matt Gee

“I talked with him and he helped get our order ready,” she said. “We got the jerseys first and the equipment was a bit behind so I called him to get an update on how that was going.”

That's when Chaloner was thrown a curveball of sorts and where the youth gear comes into play.

“He asked me if I would be interested in having some youth equipment sent up,” she said. “He told me that Jumpstart had sent two large donations and there was some larger-sized gear in there so the women could be partially equipped.”

It was a win-win in Chaloner's eyes because the kids were in need of gear as well, she added.

“I told (Kyle) I would make it work,” she said.

The gear arrived in the community earlier this month: 25 bags packed full of gear, enough for 45 full youth sets, and three boxes of hockey sticks.

Chaloner said it arrived faster than she thought it would, causing a bit of a headache as to how she was going to transport it.

Enter the Gjoa Haven RCMP.

“My husband is stationed here and he and the other guys got everything gathered up,” she said. “It took a couple of weeks to sort it all out into sizes.”

Chaloner then went to talk to Matt Gee, who chairs the community's recreation committee, to see what to do with the gear.

“In smaller communities, kids don't always get the chance to play and so this would be a great opportunity to get kids out on the ice who wouldn't get that chance,” she said.

With the help of volunteers, 38 sets of gear were loaned out on Feb. 14 for the duration of the arena season. To help get the players out learning the sport, the community arena is now holding learn-to-play sessions for players between the ages of four through nine every Sunday until the ice is taken out of the arena.

“There was so much excitement and we were there at the arena for hours,” said Chaloner. “Everyone waited patiently, there were no mass groups and we did it properly under Covid regulations.”

The community is currently at stage one of re-opening at the present time.

Once the season is over, players will be asked to return the gear and it will be sanitized and stored for the following season, said Chaloner.

Gee said he wished every child in the community could be outfitted but there could be more opportunities in the future.

“The hope is, if everyone shows up to practice and takes care of their gear, we can continue to source more charitable donations in the years to come,” he said.

Gee also said in lieu of a thank-you, he'd like to see something a bit more tangible.

“When people say thank you, I want to say 'The kids can thank us themselves in 10 years when they win the Kitikmeot Cup',” he said.