Northern hockey fans hyped for NHL charity games

Yellowknife and Inuvik, N.W.T. games are selling out, Whitehorse tickets will go on sale Saturday.

Yellowknife and Inuvik, N.W.T. games selling out, Whitehorse tickets on sale Saturday

The Ottawa Senators' Daniel Alfredsson puts the puck past Winnipeg Jets' goalie Ondrej Pavelec. Alfredsson is one of the NHL players who has been confirmed to play in the charity games in the North.

Hockey fans in the Northwest Territories and Whitehorse will be able to get their fix when a charity tour with NHL players kicks off this weekend.

The anticipation is building in Yellowknife, where the 1000 tickets to Sunday night’s game sold out quickly.

Nine-year-old Jakob Traynor said seeing his favourite player, Daniel Afredsson, could be a dream come true.

"I think it's going to be a great experience and I think it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.

He’s not the only family member looking forward to the game.

His father, Andrew Traynor, who is also the program director with the Yellowknife minor hockey association, is also a fan.

"I'm from Ottawa, obviously, I think Ottawa Senators is probably the best team in the NHL. I love that Daniel Alfredsson is coming up, my kids love him and they're going to love to meet him, hopefully."

That once-in-a-lifetime experience is part of the reason the Aboriginal Sports Circle got involved.

"A lot of the kids are excited too. It's not every day you have a current NHLer play in your own rink," said program manager Derek Squirrel.

Organizers expect as many as 20 players will make the trip. As of Friday, five had confirmed. They include Nunavut’s Jordin Tootoo of the Detroit Red Wings and Chris Phillips, Chris Neil, Zach Smith and Daniel Alfredsson from the Ottawa Senators.

Former NHL player John Chabot is the driving force behind the northern tour and already held a charity game in Cornwall, Ont.

He said travelling north is part of the appeal for players.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the guys," Chabot said. "This is never going to happen again, we'll never have the opportunity to see live NHL hockey in the north, at this time of year, in this type of situation."

He said the uncertainty of the NHL lock out has made confirming players a challenge. With negotiations now stalled, he's still negotiating with a variety of agents for other star players.

"Not knowing the situation with the lock-out, everything is kind of fly by the seat of your pants," he said Friday from Ottawa.

Chabot hopes the roster will be finalized by Saturday afternoon.

"It’s been a whirlwind, we’ve been going 14, 15 hours a day trying to get this done... But we’re going to go up there and put on a show. The players are going to have a great time"

The players will also be making a stop in Deline, N.W.T. on Monday. The community is planning a cultural day for them. This will include a community feast, a pick-up hockey game on Great Bear Lake and maybe even some hunting and ice fishing for the players.

Tickets for the Inuvik game on Tuesday night are almost gone. Tickets will go on sale Saturday morning in Whitehorse for Wednesday night’s game at the Takhini Arena.