Atoms go home happy

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo Steve Campbell, left, hands Pennie Pokiak a check on behalf of the Hay River Elks Club who are proud to sponsor the Atoms hockey tournament.

Sarah Ladik/NNSL photo
Steve Campbell, left, hands Pennie Pokiak a check on behalf of the Hay River Elks Club who are proud to sponsor the Atoms hockey tournament.

The Don Stewart Recreation Centre welcomed seven atom hockey teams over the weekend for their annual tournament, sponsored by the Hay River Elks Club.

“We got lots of positive feedback,” tournament organizer Pennie Pokiak told The Hub. “Everyone seemed to have a good time, and everything went off without a hitch.”

Teams came from Yellowknife, Fort Smith and Rainbow Lake, Alta., to participate in the tournament. All teams were guaranteed four games and while participation was recognized instead of regular rankings, Hay River would have come in first if there had been a play-off structure. The team won three games out of four and tied the last.

“Our team did awesome,” said Pokiak. “It was a great weekend for them.”

It appears that it was a great weekend for more than Hay River, however, as Rainbow Lake’s Margaret Huberdeau told The Hub.

“We try to come every year,” she said. “Our kids love to come to this tournament, not just for the hockey, but because of the pool and all the other things. They always go bowling while we’re here too.”

Pokiak said the local children also enjoy all the excitement surrounding the weekend tournament, especially as they get to meet new people.

“It’s just so kid-oriented,” she said. “They love coming together and meeting each other and hanging out.”

She also said tournaments really serve to challenge all the players, which is never a bad thing.

“Some of the kids are pretty competitive,” she explained. “They’re all out there having fun, but you can really pinpoint the ones who are there to win games. It’s about half and half.”

The tournament is capped at eight teams for time reasons and having seven teams show up is the general trend.

While the event’s numbers are steady, Pokiak said minor hockey as a whole in Hay River is anything but. Numbers have dropped a little in both Bantam and Midget categories, and the Peewees and Atoms are what she calls “healthy” but the Novice level has seen an explosion in participants.

“There are 29 novices registered to play this year,” said Pokiak, adding that initiation and learn-to-play levels are also high. “God bless those coaches who have to chase 30 kids around the ice.”

While tournaments are no doubt the highlight of the year for many players, Pokiak said that equally important are the extras they get in the association, including the upcoming game against the RCMP detachment to kick off their annual toy drive.

“We’re pretty happy with the numbers,” said Pokiak. “Teams are just starting to travel and get settled now. It’s a bit of a later start than other places, but it all worked out great.”

–Sarah Ladik