The young ladies who made history at the Arctic Winter Games in Greenland this year have now received an award recognizing them as the NWT Team of the Year.
The Junior Female Arctic Winter Games hockey team was the first under-19 female team to go undefeated and win the gold ulu. Their victory did not go unnoticed, and they were nominated for Sport North’s NWT Team of the Year award, which recognizes achievements and accomplishments of teams in the NWT.
Two of the team members – Bryn Hill and Cassidy Ring – are from Hay River, as well as the team’s coach John Hill.
The results for the Team of the Year competition were announced on May 27, giving the title to the golden team.
“At first I was surprised, and then extremely proud,” said Ring. “We went through it all together as a team, and I do think we are very deserving of the award.”
Bryn was also excited by the honour.
“It took a lot of hard work to get that gold ulu, and it felt great knowing that someone nominated us and shared in our accomplishment with us,” she said.
The girls both agreed that team chemistry was the key component to making history.
“Our team has built up together since 2014, so knowing each other better and how to play together played a big part in it,” said Hill.
“I think we all worked together very well now that we are all friends,” said Ring. “Usually at these competitions, you are paired with strangers and that makes for an uncomfortable team. But at this calibre of hockey, it really helped to have a team that knew each other and played together really well.”
“It helped that we had a great coach, as well,” said Bryn Hill.
She said having her father as a coach did not affect her game at all, explaining, “I thought it could be difficult but it was actually really great.”
“John is a good family friend and he is very approachable,” added Ring. “He created a good atmosphere on the team and I think all the team members would agree with that.”
John stepped in as the coach to take the team to the Arctic Winter Games. He said the team was made up of mostly the same players as the 2014 games but with a new game plan they were able to make the changes necessary to win the gold.
“For me, I’ve been watching them as a parent for the last four years and critiquing from the stands,” said Hill. “So when I finally got the chance to accept the coach position, I knew what the game plan needed to be.”
The coach said the team focused on defence first, and worked on their goals as individuals and as a team.
“The girls worked hard, listened and bought into the game plan,” he said. “They knew there was room for improvement, so we changed the structure of the team and gave them a better understanding of the game. The game is meant to be fun, not all about rules and discipline. They have to be relaxed and playing in a stress-free environment. So that’s what we did, and the results were positive.”
Both Bryn and Ring hope to be on the roster again in 2018 when the games are co-hosted by Hay River and Fort Smith but will have to make the call based on their schooling schedules.
“It would be great to play in our own hometown,” said Bryn.
John said he will also be applying for the coaching position for the next AWG.
“It would be exciting to be on home soil,” he said.