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Women's hockey team flourishing in Whale Cove

Members of Whale Cove's women's hockey team after a session on the ice. From left: Caitlin Uklaagak, Anita Panika, Mary Anguk, Shufly Nattar, Crystal Okalik, Pearl-Ann Kriterdluk, Deirdra Ulurksit, Barbara Ulurksit and goalie Nicole Ulurksit

Whale Cove's men's hockey teams have won their fair share of tournaments in the Kivalliq over the years.

Now a newly formed team of women is hoping to make a name for themselves in regional competitions once the end of Covid-19 restrictions makes such events possible again.

The community's women's team, which has been playing together for two years, was founded by Victoria Kidlapik when she moved from her hometown of Naujaat to Whale Cove for work 2019.

Given that “ladies hockey is big in Naujaat,” Kidlapik was surprised to find out the community of 400 didn't have a team. So she asked local women if they'd be interested in starting one.

“It started with just three of us and it started to grow,” said Kidlapik.

Shufly Nattar, who was one the team’s first members, has been playing hockey since she was 10-years-old. However, growing up the 18-year-old always had to play on boys bantam or pewee teams or men's senior teams. Nattar said getting to play with other women was refreshing.

“I was excited because I hadn't played with women. I had only played with men and boys,” she said. “It's easier to get along with women.”

As more people joined, they started setting their sights on the Young At Heart women's hockey tournament in the spring of 2020.

Due to Covid-19 that tournament ended up getting cancelled. The women were disappointed by the news but they looked at it as an opportunity to practise more for the following year.

As they prepared for the 2021 tournament, the women decided they wanted to have their own jerseys so they could feel more like a team.

Kidlapik said she contacted local RCMP officer James Charles to see if they could access funding.

“I submitted a proposal and we got funding through the family violence initiative fund,” she said.

After getting approved for $5,000 they set started brainstorming ideas for the logo and how they wanted the jerseys to look.

They ended up reaching out to Maxine Anguk, whose grandfather played on Whale Cove's first ever men's team.

“It's a sentimental story,” explained Kidlapik. “It has the very first senior men's logo is in the background and just to add something unique for the ladies our designer did some additional things.”

Nattar said it was such a welcome change to have proper jerseys.

“Having all different kinds of jerseys, it was hard to tell who was on each team. It's better than how it used to be.”

Unfortunately, despite having their new jerseys the tournament was cancelled yet again this
year due to continued restrictions related to Covid-19.

Whale Cove women need more hockey gear

The team may not have had the chance to play against other communities yet but they have
been practising regularly thanks in part to the help of John Voisey, who has been coaching them in his spare time.

There roster currently has 10 full-time players and a few others who join from time to time.
One of the biggest problems in attracting more players is the lack of equipment.

“It's hard to get more women on the team because there isn't enough gear in the community,” explained Nattar.

Kidlapik said that because not a lot of ladies own their own equipment, they are borrowing gear from their brothers, uncles or other male relatives.

Although their season wrapped up last week, the team is currently looking to secure more
equipment for next year and is seeking funding opportunities as well as donations of used gear. Kidlapik recently left Whale Cove, but she stays in close contact with her former teammates through a group chat.

“The team is still fundraising and they're still going,” she said.

Although Kidlapik won't be lining up beside them when the time comes to compete, Nattar said she and her teammates are grateful for everything she did to support women's hockey in Whale Cove.

“We think of her a lot because I wouldn't be here if she didn't come here and organize a girl's hockey team.”