Whitehorse chosen over Hay River to host NHL charity hockey game

Forty-eight hours after finding out Hay River was hosting a charity hockey game featuring NHL players, the excitement quickly turned to disappointment as it was announced the game was cancelled.

Ex-NHL player John Chabot, in partnership with the Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT and First Assist Charities, had planned on bringing close to 30 locked-out NHLers to Hay River on Nov. 21.

We are very disappointed to say that the game in Hay River had to be cancelled,” Chabot said in a statement released on Nov. 9.

With the possibility of the NHL lock-out being resolved fairly soon, we wanted to include as much of the North and present a game in each of the three territories.”

As a result, the three-game tour will feature stops in Yellowknife on Nov. 18, in Inuvik on Nov. 20 and in Whitehorse on Nov. 21.

A game had yet to be scheduled in Nunavut. Dawson City and Deline also saw their games cancelled.

Some Hay Riverites, including Mayor Andrew Cassidy, had remained cautiously optimistic when first learning about the NHLers’ visit.

Right now we’re waiting to see what’ll happen with the (NHL) negotiations but it would be huge for this town, and a great opportunity for hockey fans here,” he said on Nov. 7.

An impending agreement between the NHL owners and players might only be one of the reasons for the cancellations, though.

Although Chabot has mentioned the desire to bring at least 30 NHLers to the North, he struggled to find 20 to take part in a game in Cornwall on Nov. 5. Eighteen played in that game, including Brian Gionta, Guillaume Latendresse and Daniel Alfredsson.

Chabot had to cancel the Nov. 12 game in Thunder Bay because he felt he “could not ice a roster that would be attractive and of full value to the hockey fans” there.

Greg Hopf, executive director of the Aboriginal Sport Circle NWT, said he was disappointed with the announcement but held out hope that NHLers would someday come to Hay River.

Both John Chabot and I agree that in the future, if there is another opportunity to work together with the NHLPA, that Hay River will be a priority,” he said in the statement.

by Myles Dolphin