While Nunavut came away winless at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championship in Winnipeg this past week with an 0-3 record, two hockey parents said the event is a tremendous learning experience for the players.
Kyle Tattuinee of Rankin Inlet was in Winnipeg to watch his son, Liam, 16, play forward with Team Nunavut.
Tattuinee said Liam was excited to play in the aboriginal tourney, especially getting the chance to suit-up with so many of his friends from home.
He said the vast majority of players on the Nunavut team came from the Kivalliq region.
“I find right now the Kivalliq players are more hockey savvy and the Baffin seems to be a little out of touch with their hockey approach right now,” said Kyle.
“The Nunavut contingent is pretty strong right now, after winning gold at the recent Arctic Winter Games with the Under-19 group.
“A lot of that core group is still together.”
Kyle said Nunavut is still a little bit behind the southern players when it comes to their structure and organization.
He said the games he saw at the event were well-attended, and it was mostly a good atmosphere for hockey, but not entirely.
“Each team seemed to have a solid fan base, especially Saskatchewan. They have a lot of aboriginal players that I would class as pretty high end and, being so close to Manitoba, a lot of their fans made the trip.
“It was an especially good atmosphere at the arena for the Nunavut vs. Saskatchewan game.
“I was a little disappointed with one of the Alberta players calling our players “grasshoppers,” but I don’t want to get too much into that.
“Sometimes, on the surface, it looks like the racism is not there, but it still is very much there. It’s crazy. You’re at an aboriginal tournament and you’re still making racist remarks.”
Warren Kusugak was in Winnipeg to watch his son, Ben, 17, also a forward with Team Nunavut.
Warren said he found the overall play at the aboriginal tournament to be awesome.
He said it was great competition and that’s going to help take hockey in Nunavut to the next step.
“It was a good learning experience for our players, big time,” said Warren.
“I think Nunavut came up just a little short at the tournament when it comes to team chemistry and playing together.
“Many of the players on the team played down south this year and the rest up North, so they really didn’t have much time to come together as a team.”
Warren said he saw Team Nunavut being being feisty and never giving up as the team’s strength at the tournament, while knowing each other and playing together as a team was their weakness.
He said you know they’re good players, they just need to click together a little bit better.
“The earlier our players get to play at higher levels like this the better.
“The more exposure to this level they get, the better they’ll play and they’ll know what to expect when they come to big tournaments.
“The exposure to southern hockey, and seeing how good some of the players in southern communities are, will really help them develop their own game.
“I really like seeing how many Kivalliq players are going down south now to play and I really encourage it.”