The NWT boys’ hockey team is pulling out all the stops to prepare for the upcoming Canada Winter Games.
That includes even participating in a men’s rec tournament at home beginning on Nov. 21 with the idea of getting the players used to travelling to attend a big event.
“We’ll try to simulate the Canada Winter Games as close to it as we can,” said assistant coach Curtis Rowe. “So the kids will be staying in hotels, eating cafeteria-style, and getting up early.”
The actual games are set for Prince George and other areas of northern British Columbia from Feb. 13 to March 1.
Rowe said the team and the coaching staff will take the rec tournament very seriously as preparation for the Canada Winter Games.
“We’ll do our best to simulate the Prince George experience for them,” he said.
In fact, Rowe noted that he will even be staying at the Ptarmigan Inn – where he is general manager – to get the feeling of being on the road at the games.
Plus, the assistant coach said the team will also try to prove what it can do on the ice.
“The midget team in Yellowknife plays in the rec league and our midget team here in Hay River played in the rec league last year,” said Rowe. “So these kids are fairly familiar and comfortable playing against men. I think they’ll be alright.”
It will be the first actual tournament for the NWT team. The only other game together was an exhibition scrimmage against a select team of midgets from Yellowknife.
However, Rowe noted that a lot of the team members played together in the 2014 Arctic Winter Games in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Three players from Hay River have made the Canada Winter Games team: Tanner Mandeville, Dawson McMeekin and Lochlan Munro. Plus, Tyrell Wilgosh is an alternate.
All three players on the team are looking forward to the home tournament.
“It should be good,” said Munro, a 14-year-old defenceman. “That will be the first time together.”
McMeekin, a 15-year-old forward, hopes the home tournament will help build team chemistry prior to heading to Prince George.
“So when we do get down there in February, we’ll be ready to go,” he said.
Mandeville, a defenceman, expects it will create a stronger bond and more trust on the team.
“We’re going to gain that,” said the 15-year-old.
Rowe expects that almost all members of the NWT team will be attending the rec tournament.
However, a few team members playing in the south might not make the tournament, he noted.
“Otherwise we will have the majority of our team.”
All the players and Rowe are also looking forward to the Canada Winter Games, which will gather the best midget-aged players from across the country.
“These kids will be playing against guys that are more than likely to be playing in the NHL and some of them are going to be superstars,” said the assistant coach.
Team member Munro said he is “definitely” looking forward to the Canada Winter Games, noting players only get one chance to play in that national event, which is held every four years.
“I think it will be a good experience to make some friends and get closer with some others, and just have some fun,” he said. “And probably win some games.”
Hay River will also have three players – Bryn Hill, Cassidy Ring and Abby Webster – on the NWT girls’ hockey team at the Canada Winter Games.