Speedskaters suit up

Members of the Hay River Speed Skating Club got together for a team photo with their new racing suits. Members of the team include, in the front row, from left, Jon Tatti, Jacob Aylward, Colby Walters, Trey Wallington, Sebastian Berrub, Penelope Berrub, Lily Wallington and Mason Wallington. In the back row, from left, are Kirstin Mahler (assistant coach), Jack Coombs, Harrison Tweedie-Pitre, Anika Pellissey, Ksydalg Henry, Nicole Griffiths, Fynn Murrell, Spencer Tweedie-Pitre, Harry Scheper (head coach), Mason Walters, Ian Aylward, Jack Irwin (back) and Mark Harris from Norland Insurance, the team's uniform sponsor.

Members of the Hay River Speed Skating Club got together for a team photo with their new racing suits. Members of the team include, in the front row, from left, Jon Tatti, Jacob Aylward, Colby Walters, Trey Wallington, Sebastian Berrub, Penelope Berrub, Lily Wallington and Mason Wallington. In the back row, from left, are Kirstin Mahler (assistant coach), Jack Coombs, Harrison Tweedie-Pitre, Anika Pellissey, Ksydalg Henry, Nicole Griffiths, Fynn Murrell, Spencer Tweedie-Pitre, Harry Scheper (head coach), Mason Walters, Ian Aylward, Jack Irwin (back) and Mark Harris from Norland Insurance, the team’s uniform sponsor.

The members of the Hay River Speed Skating Club now actually look like a team.

That’s because for the first time the young skaters have team racing suits.

Lori Coombs, the treasurer of the club, said it was the only club in the NWT that didn’t have team suits.

“We used to joke that we were a ragtag band of misfits,” she said with a laugh.

That changed at the beginning of February when the team received 24 suits of various sizes because of the financial support from Norland Insurance and Intact Insurance, which is the official sponsor of Speed Skating Canada.

Coombs said the skaters absolutely now look like a team.

“That’s the beauty of it, too,” she said. “We decided to go with the town colours – the royal blue, the yellow, which are the Town of Hay River colours. So we thought we would show that respect to our community.”

Coombs said the suits even improve team morale.

“It makes them feel like a team and it makes them feel all of a sudden more professional, too,” she said. “They’re real speedskaters now.”

The logo for Intact Insurance is on one arm of the suit and Norland Insurance is on the other arm, and Hay River Speed Skating Club is on the back with a drawing of a skater.

Lori Coombs’ son, 13-year-old Jack Coombs, said everyone in the club is really excited about the new suits.

“It definitely feels a lot more professional and it’s awesome to see everybody in the exact same suits,” he said.

Jack Coombs, who has been in the club since 2010 when he was seven, said the suits are also “extremely” good to skate in.

“The wind resistance will be so much less,” he explained. “It will be a very good suit.”

Jack Coombs said he had skating suits before but they were not of such good quality.

Aside from creating a sense of team, the new suits also provide more safety for the 20 skaters in the club.

Lori Coombs said they are cut-proof from the neck all the way down to the ankles.

“They’re made of complete Kevlar, which is what they use for bulletproof vests, of course,” she said.

Prior to the team obtaining the suits, parents would sometimes buy suits for their children.

“The club did have a few that we would lend out to the smaller kids,” said Coombs. “And the rest of the kids that there were really no suits left for – they were the older kids and their parents didn’t buy any – they would just wear their own clothes, like track pants and a sweater or something like that.”

Harry Scheper, the head coach of the club, explained skaters could wear jeans or sweatpants, as long as they also wore required safety equipment like helmets and neck guards.

Scheper welcomes the new suits.

“I thought it was an awesome thing for the kids,” he said, noting they were very excited when the suits arrived.

In fact, he summed up the reaction with a comment he heard from one young skater: “I’m thinking faster.”

Scheper said such suits can range in price from $200 to $400.

“For us, it’s been a godsend,” he said of the support from Norland Insurance and Intact Insurance.

With their new suits, nine skaters from the Hay River Speed Skating Club competed on Feb. 27 and 28 at the NWT Speed Skating Championships in Yellowknife.

Lori Coombs said the Hay River skaters received many compliments in Yellowknife for their new team uniforms.

“They looked really good out there,” she said.

And along with winning compliments, many of the Hay River competitors also won medals.

In their various divisions, Fynn Murrell, Ian Aylward, Jack Irwin, Mason Walters, Nicole Griffiths and Jack Coombs all won gold, while Jacob Aylward, Penelope Berrub and Colby Walters took home silver.

Coombs also qualified for the NWT team going to the Canada West Short Track Championships, set for March 19 and 20 in Edmonton.

-Paul Bickford