Nfld. & Labrador

Team colours shine bright as Labrador Winter Games kick off

There are over 360 athletes from all over Labrador in Happy Valley-Goose Bay this week to compete in a unique collection of winter sports.

EJ Broomfield arena in Happy Valley-Goose Bay was packed to capacity Sunday night

Team Nain was pumped as it entered the EJ Broomfield arena Sunday night to kick off the Labrador Winter Games. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Athletes from all over Labrador packed Happy Valley-Goose Bay's EJ Broomfield arena Sunday night to kick off the Labrador Winter Games.

"This week, more history will be made," Premier Dwight Ball said. "It is my pleasure to officially open the 2019 Labrador Winter Games."

Teams made their entrances through a canvas tent, shining bright with team colours.

The arena, which was filled to capacity, welcomed over 360 athletes from 20 Labrador communities who will be competing in various events during the week-long games.

During the ceremony, the Labrador Winter Games flame was lit atop a giant map of Labrador, by torch bearers Cynthia Hancock, from Forteau, and Jesse Ford, from Makkovik, who is also the youngest competitor.

The ceremony also honoured Boyce Bessey, a dedicated volunteer from the very first games in 1983, who passed away just over three years ago.

"There wasn't anything that he couldn't or wouldn't do," Ball said of Bessey. "He could be counted upon when there was something that was needed to be done, all of which he did without complaint or desire for recognition."

Makkovik's Jesse Ford and Forteau's Cynthia Hancock carry the torch during Sunday night's ceremonies. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The games are made up of seven mandatory events, some of which are unique to Labrador, like the Labrathon and the Northern games, along with familiar sports like cross-country skiing and snowshoe races.

There are also five optional events for teams to compete in, including the first-ever road running race.

"We welcome all of the competitors to a week of strong competition, but friendly competition," Ernie McLean, games chairman, said.

Community colours

Premier Dwight Ball presents a dedication to long-time volunteer Boyce Bessey, who died in 2016. (Twitter/PremierofNL)

Team Cartwright, which won the team trophy at the last Labrador Winter Games, made their bright orange entrance in matching outfits.

"We usually try and get the best team we can get and we practice, and we become a big family, so it means a lot, " Cartwright competitor Andrea Pardy said. 

Team Cartwright won the last Labrador Winter Games in 2016, and they hope to do it again. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"For Labrador, it gets all the communities together and it's like they say, '[It's] a big friendship games,' so it's awesome," she said. 

Team Sheshatshiu entered the arena dressed in traditional Innu uniforms, made by community members.

"It was honestly really nice," Nickolas Gregoire said.

It was a group effort to dress team Sheshatshiu. Community members Mary Pia Benuen, Theresa Andrew, Jojo Rich and Josie Pone all pitched in to craft a different part of the traditional Innu uniform. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Gregoire is hoping to unseat the sitting champs.

"Everybody's hoping to win it, I'm just hoping we will come out on top," he said.

Rigolet stood out as they took to the arena floor, wearing locally-crafted Labrador dickies and hats.

"We're really proud to have local dress on at this big event," Kristy Sheppard said.

Eldred Allen and Kristy Sheppard of Rigolet wearing team dickies and hats crafted by some local talent. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The roughly 20 members of Team Rigolet are evenly divided between veteran and rookie competitors. Some made their way from the isolated community by plane, but others travelled the roughly 160 kilometres by snowmobile.

"We really like to compete but we like to have a lot of fun as well, so the team is really excited," Sheppard said.

The Labrador Winter Games will be full days of events and competition, before wrapping up with closing ceremonies on Saturday night.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.