Team NWT’s bantam boys hockey team may not be happy with the final score but there is no doubt that they came out of the Canada Winter Games better players than they went in.
“It’s been really good so far,” said coach Curtis Rowe last week after the boys had played three games. “The scores may not be exactly what we want but it’s a great experience for them and a chance to play some really competitive hockey.”
Three boys from Hay River played on the team — Dawson McMeekin, Lochlon Munro and Tanner Mandeville. While the team played well together, they were unable to get past teams from Prince Edward Island, Yukon, and Newfoundland and Labrador to win.
“It’s been great, a lot of fun,” McMeekin told The Hub on Saturday. “The hockey is fun, it’s really competitive.”
He also noted that while the team didn’t do as well as they would have liked, he understood that opposing teams from the provinces have a number of advantages, starting with their wider selection pool.
“Players from the provinces were really tough,” McMeekin said. “But it was really good to play against them, you learn a lot.”
As for off the ice, both players and coach said that was a valuable learning experience as well.
“The athletes village, the volunteers, everything was really top notch,” sid McMeekin. “They’ve treated us really well. It’s been amazing.”
For Rowe, seeing his charges have the opportunity to interact with some of the best players in the country in their age group was priceless.
“These are some of the guys who are going to go on to make it big in the NHL and our guys got to meet them,” he said.
Rowe said that as far as he knows, the NWT fielded one of the youngest teams in Canada Winter Games history this year as well. While most of the players were born in 1999, they did have one born in 2002, making them unique in that they had such a wide age-spread on the roster.
But despite their age, Rowe said the chaperoning aspect of his job was not onerous.
“It’s a very businesslike team,” he said. “They can have fun, but when it’s time to get to the rink, they know what to do and how to behave.”