North

The most Canadian proposal ever? Yellowknife woman gets the man, and rock, of her dreams

What happens when your proposal-on-the-lake idea fails? You propose again — on a hockey rink.

‘The lights are dim, and there’s candles on the ice... Tennessee Whiskey is playing… My heart was racing'

'As we’re going into the building, I smell hockey gear,' said Nikita Desjarlais, who was blindfolded. 'I love hockey... I played hockey for 12 years, off and on, so I knew where we were.' (Liz Bourassa/Spruce and Sparrow)

He proposed to her twice in one week.

"I honestly thought about this proposal a million times," said Gabriel Gionet. 

But the "spur of the moment" proposal on Alberta's frozen Ghost Lake didn't quite turn out how Gabriel had envisioned it. 

"I was going ice-fishing with a buddy, and then I was thinking 'Wow. Maybe it would be a good idea to bring her out to the little ice shack. You know, she's from the North," said Gabriel, who's from the small community of French Village in New Brunswick.

"The lighting was bad, it was super dark," recalled Nikita Desjarlais, who had her two-year-old daughter on her lap when Gabriel popped the question.

And then I started kind of realizing that I really messed up.- Gabriel Gionet

Then Gabriel's buddy ran out of propane for his tent. Gabriel dropped Nikita and their toddler off at home in Cochrane, Alta., and drove off again to help his buddy out. Along the way, his truck got stuck out on the ice, and he didn't make it home that night.

"And then I started kind of realizing that I really messed up," said Gabriel.

This was last Monday — the night when Gabriel first proposed to Nikita.  

Attempt #2: On the ice, again

A few days later, on Saturday night, Gabriel told Nikita he was going to go grab some beers.

"Maybe 20 minutes after, he gives me a call and said: 'Hey babe. Get ready. Look nice. And just wait,'" said Nikita. "It was kind of cold, so I was like, do I wear a dress, do I wear pants? I changed, like seriously, six times."

Then Nikita's cousin showed up, blindfolded her, put earphones blasting music in her ear, and drove her to a secret location.

'After eight years, things maybe don’t seem so romantic anymore… So I wanted to prove to her that even now that we have a kid and we’re so busy, I can still give her that romance that every girl wants and make her feel special,' says Gabriel Gionet. (Liz Bourassa/Spruce and Sparrow)

"As we're going into the building, I smell hockey gear," said Nikita. "I love hockey. I think it's the best game in the world... I played hockey for 12 years, off and on, so I knew where we were."

She was inside the local Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre.

When her blindfold was pulled off, she locked eyes with a nervous Gabriel, who, just moments before, had vomited because of his nerves.  

"The lights are dim, and there's candles on the ice, Chris Stapleton's Tennessee Whiskey is playing," recalled Nikita. "My heart was racing."

I love you babe, and I can't wait to see what our future holds- Nikita Desjarlais

Gabriel skated her into the center of the ice, where the couple danced to Nikita's favourite song.

"I was blabbin'," recalled Gabriel. "[I said] I felt really bad that I didn't capture the moment, and this is what I really wanted to do."

Then he got down on one knee on the ice, for the second time.

"I said yes!" said Nikita.

'I love her, and I will keep fighting for us.' (Liz Bourassa/Spruce and Sparrow)

Nikita's very Canadian ring

"He's not one to be so romantic, and it really threw me off," said Nikita who wasn't expecting a re-do.

"After eight years, things maybe don't seem so romantic anymore," Gabriel said. "So I wanted to prove to her that even now that we have a kid and we're so busy, I can still give her that romance that every girl wants and make her feel special."

The ring, an N.W.T. diamond. (submitted by Nikita Desjarlais)
The ring was a special touch. 

Originally from Lutselk'e, N.W.T., Nikita grew up in Yellowknife, the self-styled Diamond Capital of North America. The territory's Ekati diamond mine was the first to produce diamonds in Canada. 

"I had once raved, or said something [like] 'Oh, it would be so cool if I got a rock from home,'" said Nikita.

Knowing this, Gabriel had specially requested an N.W.T. diamond, and waited months for the ring to be finished.

"Home is so important to her," he said. 

The couple said wedding plans are still in the early stages, but their daughter Adele will for sure be a part of it.

"I love you babe, and I can't wait to see what our future holds," said Nikita.

"I love her, and I will keep fighting for us," said Gabriel.

About the Author

Priscilla Hwang

Reporter/Editor

Priscilla Hwang is a reporter with CBC News based in Yellowknife. She's worked with the investigative unit, CBC Toronto, Ottawa, Whitehorse and Iqaluit. Before joining the CBC in 2016, she travelled across the Middle East and North Africa to share people's stories. She has a Master of Journalism from Carleton University and speaks Korean, Tunisian Arabic, and dabbles at classical Arabic and French. Want to contact her? Email priscilla.hwang@cbc.ca or @prisksh on Twitter.

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