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Smiles on ice as Whale Cove arena open for business once again

Atuat Atatsiak and Elias Voisey (goalie) skate on their home ice for the first time in three years as the arena reopened in Whale Cove this past month. Photo courtesy of the Hamlet of Whale Cove

There were smiling faces all around as the arena was back up and operating at 100 per cent in Whale Cove in March.

The arena had been closed for the past three three years due mainly to heating difficulties.

Whale Cove Mayor Oliver Shipton said some unforeseen difficulties prevented workers from Eskimo Point Lumber Supply (EPLS) from getting into the community as quickly as hoped.

Flight cancellations and delays in sourcing some of the materials pushed the big day back a little later than he was hoping for, he said.

“It’s a two-inch heating system, copper pipe, so they were having trouble sourcing some of the fittings,” said Shipton.

“The boilers were actually here this past October, then we were able to finalize the heating system and EPLS took it all from there.

“The arena was really missed a lot by the community. It’s a huge mental-health support for the youth of the community, as well as the adults who enjoy skating and playing old-timer’s hockey.

“The kids really missed public skating too. It was not just all about hockey.”

With the arena closed for three years, Shipton said youth in the community were skating on the road, as well as Nattar Lake.

He said they went to the arena as soon as it reopened and they were all so happy to be back skating on arena ice.

“It was just awesome to see all the smiles on their faces and how happy they all were.

“I’m happy we now have one more mental support and functioning facility in the community for the people to enjoy.”

Whale Cove has always had its share of good hockey players and the skills of the current and upcoming generations didn’t totally erode during the arena closure, according to the mayor.

However, he is quick to add that the situation definitely had a negative impact on younger players due to the lack of proper ice to practice on.

“The ice on the lake is kind of edgy and there’s big cracks in a lot of places. It wasn’t a controlled setting, so they couldn’t play to their full potential. They’ll have that again with the arena reopening.

“Whale Cove didn’t even make it to a lot of the tournaments during the past three years because there just wasn’t enough practice and everyone was a little too rusty to bring their best game.

“Our team did really good at the Terence Tootoo Memorial this year, even though that was a day before the arena reopened here in Whale.

“I can foresee a lot of our kids, and adults too for that matter, doing well in all the tournaments again because now they’ll be able to practice more.”

Shipton was proud and happy to see the local youth keep their spirits up and not give up on hockey while their arena was closed.

He said the impact on the youth is a prime example of why it’s so important to have arenas in Northern communities.

“Every community should have a functioning arena. In fact, not only an arena but also a baseball diamond and other facilities where kids can release their stress and enjoy what they love to do.

“Seeing them play on the roads and lake as much as they did while the arena was closed — you know there’s a huge love for the sport and it was awesome to see them keeping at it as best they could. And it’s even better to see them back on the arena ice again.

“With the arena open; it’s another way they can exercise, fill their time with positive activities, have fun and enjoy themselves together. Those are all positives for the community.

“I really want us to be able to host our own big hockey tournament again next year. There was an old hockey event – the Johnny Kook Memorial (JKM) — that used to be held in Whale Cove.

“I believe the whole community would love to see the JKM come back again.”

About the Author: Darrell Greer, Local Journalism Initiative

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