Driven to be the best: Yukon teen faces biggest challenge yet at Canada Games
13-year-old Arnica Bulmer is determined to take her game to the highest level
Imagine piling into a car and driving 1,100 kilometres every weekend — to play hockey.
That was Arnica Bulmer's life for two winters.
Every Friday, after school, she would load her gear into the car and travel with her mom or dad from Dawson City, Yukon, to Whitehorse to attend practice.
Those were no ordinary practices, mind you — Bulmer was playing with the Yukon Mustangs girls rep team, a team made up of the best young female players in the territory.
Some on the team are as old as 17. Arnica tried out and made that team when she was just ten years old.
Hockey means everything to me.- Arnica Bulmer
"We probably made 20 to 25 trips the first winter," said Lupine Bulmer, Arnica's mom. "We'd leave Friday and come back Sunday and she'd be back in class Monday morning."
Those long road trips are a testament to just how passionate Arnica, 13, is about the sport.
This week she's lacing up for Team Yukon at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta., facing off against the best young female players in Canada, many of whom are several years older.
Arnica fell in love with the game at an early age, honing her skills playing on a backyard rink built by her dad.
"Hockey means everything to me...talking about it, playing it," said Arnica. "It's so fun to be out there on the ice competing."
When Arnica was 12, she tried out and made the Yukon Rivermen — a bantam Triple-A team typically made up of the best 14-year-old male hockey players in the territory. That's when the decision was made to pack up the house and move the family to Whitehorse.
"We were very nervous, you know, are we making the right decision for the family?" said Lupine. "In hindsight now, it was ... both our two younger kids are loving it here and are loving playing hockey."
For Arnica, leaving Dawson City was hard but the move has already paid off.
Playing defence with the Rivermen this past season she was able to play faster, more physical, hockey against older boys.
And while some might be intimidated by that, Arnica was not.
"It was good," she said, referring to her first season with the Rivermen, "I mean, it's not super different except for the fact that it was contact, and you're playing against guys ... other than that, it's just hockey."
The Canada Winter Games offers her a new challenge, the biggest yet of her young career.
Yukon is the youngest team at the competition. The team's back up goalie is only 11 years old.
Despite the challenge ahead, Arnica isn't fazed. Why would she be, given what she's faced already?
"It would be really nice to have a really close game. And for myself, it would be nice to score a goal or two," she said.
It's that poise and confidence that the team will be leaning on throughout the Games.
Team Yukon plays its first game Sunday at 12:30 p.m. against Newfoundland and Labrador.