For all the focus on elite-level competition last week, sometimes it pays to play for lower stakes and for the love of the game.
The NWT School Curling Championship was held at the Hay River Curling Club Feb. 7 through 9, and brought together young curlers of all levels to test their skills, gain experience, and have a good time. Teams came in from Yellowknife and Fort Smith to join Hay River’s for a total of 14 teams. Organizer Gary Hoffman said the cost of travel and accommodation can be daunting for teams from further afield even for a location central to the South Slave.
“We used to have a lot more teams come,” he said. “As much as 38 one year. But it’s just too expensive for many of them to make it anymore, especially from places like Inuvik.”
There were more than enough teams, however, to host a full tournament for multiple levels of play over the weekend. Both the boys and girls A level teams are headed to Fairbanks, Alaska for the Arctic Winter Games next month and got the chance to play against each other in the championship ending Feb 9.
“They’ll play five games against each other,” said Hoffman. “I think it helps them to have more time on the ice and more practice too.”
Katherine Lenoir is the skip for one of Hay River’s C division teams and said the tournament was one of the most fun she has seen.
“It’s a good experience playing teams outside of Hay River,” she said. “The best thing has been being with my team. We’ve been to other competitions before, but now we’re really coming together and actually being a team.”
Hoffman said the emphasis of the tournament – in the midst of Hay River’s Olympic fervour, teams coming back from national competitions, and the ramp up for the Arctic Winter Games – is really to have fun.
“It’s a great event and everyone looks forward to it,” he said, adding that the Elks have been sponsoring the event since the first time it was held 14 years ago and that he loves to see the clubs bringing all their kids, even those too young yet to curl.
“I gauge the success of this tournament by the smiles on their faces,” Hoffman said. “And I think this has been a good one.”