Nunavut hockey team makes history and other North highlights at the Canada Games

With week two of the Canada Winter Games underway in Red Deer, Alta., we look back at the athletes, teams and stories from Canada's North.

Yukon skiers, N.W.T. skater just miss podium in week 1 of competition

Biathlete Jake Draper just missed out on a trio of top-10 finishes. He finished 7th, 10th, and 11th in his three races during the week. (Jacquie Matechuk/2019 Canada Winter Games)

With week two of the Canada Winter Games underway in Red Deer, Alta., here's a look back at the athletes, teams and stories from Nunavut, Yukon, and the N.W.T. that made headlines in week one.

Nunavut hockey makes history

Team Nunavut celebrated a 5-3 win over Team Yukon, in its first ever game at the Canada Winter Games. (Rod Ince/2019 Canada Winter Games)

It was a banner week for hockey in Nunavut, as the territory sent its first-ever team to the Canada Winter Games.

However, Team Nunavut wasn't interested in making history by just being at the tournament — they were there to win.

Their first-ever hockey game at the Canada Games was a 5-3 victory over Yukon.

Though the team wasn't able to pick up another victory during the tournament, it was a monumental week for the territory's hockey program.

"When you go back home, take this experience with you, tell everybody else about it, and just show them that we can come down here and we can compete with the best in Canada," said head coach Martin Joy to his charges after their final game.

"Because we certainly did this week."

Yukon skiers fly high

Team Yukon's greatest successes during week one of the games came on skis — both in biathlon and flying through the air in the freestyle competition.

Biathlete Jake Draper just missed out on a trio of top-10 finishes. He finished seventh, tenth, and eleventh place in his three races during the week.

"Earlier this season, I wasn't doing so well," Draper told CBC's Juanita Taylor, explaining that he recently moved to Calgary from Whitehorse and revamped his entire training style.

"Now I was able to pull off a few good placings against guys who were potentially two years older than me. It feels good."

Kyran Allen placed fourth in the big air competition at the Canada Winter Games after a crash on his final jump. He's the highest placed northern athlete to date at the competition. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC)

However, it was Whitehorse's Kyran Allen who had the best finish for a Northern athlete in week one, narrowly missing the podium in the freestyle skiing big air competition.

Allen had a shot at the podium with his final jump of the event, but "went big, a little too big, and just couldn't stop it," he said.

Allen's fourth-place finish accompanied a pair of top-10s by teammate Nico Rodden, who finished eighth place in the big air and ninth in slopestyle.

But it wasn't all about top-10 finishes for team Yukon. Brothers Micah and Caius Taggart-Cox from Marsh Lake proudly represented Yukon as their territory's only speed skaters.

After finishing up their race, Micah was introspective about his experience.

"I think anybody who's back home in any sports should put your heart and soul into it and try to come," Micah said. "Because it's quite life changing."

Acorn puts speed skating world on notice

Team N.W.T.'s Wren Acorn had an incredible week on the speed skating oval. A crash may have taken her out of contention for a medal in her only "A" final, but with a trio of top 10s over the course of the week, she had the best games for an N.W.T. skater in 12 years.

The 15-year-old took on World Cup-level skaters during the week, and told CBC's Loren McGinnis that despite the crash, she's not concerned about what could have been.

"Honestly I made an 'A' final at the [Canada Winter Games]," Acorn said. "No matter how it went I would have been happy with it."

Team N.W.T.'s Wren Acorn had an incredible week on the speed skating oval. With a trio of top 10s over the course of the week, she had the best games for an N.W.T. skater in 12 years. (Garrett Hinchey/CBC)

It was also an important week for the territory's table tennis team, who attended their first Canada Games in 40 years.

Head coach Thorsten Gohl sees big things in the future of the sport for the N.W.T., and is working with the Yukon and Nunavut teams on future pan-territorial collaborations

Gohl cited the sport's simple and inexpensive setup, and its availability to players of all ages and skill levels, as reasons that this year's games is just the beginning.

"Table tennis will be the sport of the North," he proclaimed.

Despite the historic achievements of the territories' athletes over the first week of the games, one thing still eludes teams Nunavut, N.W.T., and Yukon: a medal.

A fresh batch of athletes will give it their all this week, including in women's hockey, curling, cross-country skiing, badminton, squash and judo.

With files from Nick Murray, Juanita Taylor and Loren McGinnis

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