Nunavut takes its 1st gold in hockey at the Arctic Winter Games

Hockey night in the North ended with a golden moment, when Nunavut's male hockey team captured the territory's first gold in hockey at the Arctic Winter Games.

'It means, like, everything to me, representing my hometown, Nunavut'

Members of Team Nunavut embrace after winning the final game of hockey at the Arctic Winter Games.
Teammates embrace after Nunavut beat Alaska in the gold medal hockey final at the 2023 Arctic Winter Games, in Fort McMurray, Alta., on Friday. Nunavut won the gold with a score of 4-1. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Hockey night in the North ended with a golden moment on Friday, when Nunavut's male hockey team captured the territory's first gold in hockey at the Arctic Winter Games.

Team Nunavut ended its final game against Alaska 4-1. 

Seventeen-year-old Sandy Tattuinee, who got an assist in the game, called the win a "surreal moment" and said he was thinking of his sisters, his family and his friends back home when the game came to a close. 

"It means, like, everything to me, representing my hometown, Nunavut," he said. 'It's, like, unreal."

The CBC's George Maratos was at the game, held at Centrefire Place, which is home to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.

Hockey players pile onto their goalie.
Team Nunavut, led by captain Garren Voisey, pile on with joy after taking the win. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

"You can imagine these young players, some of them only 15, 16, coming out and getting all the bells and whistles that come with a normal home game, including the PA announcer, the light show and the fans," he said.

"I mean, the players didn't take any shifts off, but neither did the fans, especially the Nunavut fans — they were relentless, and so were the players on the ice."

Two players on the ice, in awe.
Terence Pilakapsi of Rankin Inlet and Russell Matoo, 17, of Coral Harbour take in the excitement after the victory. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

'A huge accomplishment'

The win has been a long time coming, according to Pujjuut Kusugak of Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, who gave a play-by-play of the game in Inuktitut in a CBC livestream of the game.

"We've had a lot of close teams, but this team has been building up to this for probably 10, 12 years," he said. "David Clark has put in so much time developing these young players, having them in tournaments, and then it peaked at the right time."

Three people in an arena.
Darren Ikakhik, Pujjuut Kusugak and Mary Tatty provided Inuktitut play-by-play of the final Nunavut hockey game at the Arctic Winter Games. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

"The biggest thing is that Nunavut now expects medals in hockey," he said, "which would have never happened years ago. We've had two teams that won silver, but for us to expect medals in hockey — it's a huge accomplishment for the amount of people we have, but also to the hockey programs we have in our communities, so a huge thanks to the coaches and minor hockey associations for putting in the time."

As for the game itself, Kusugak said Nunavut was in control right from the beginning. 

"Nunavut was all over Alaska," he said. "They made it so hard for Alaska to even enter the zone. And even when they did, Nunavut came out with the puck, had control most of the game."

Fans in the stands.
Steve Williamson Bathory holds up a Team Nunavut sign in the stands. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Mary Tatty and Darren Ikakhik offered colour commentary on the game. 

"The mayor of Arviat opened the community hall so that people could go watch the livestream," Tatty said. "And it was packed." 

Ikakhik was a last-minute addition to the team. He admits he was nervous going in but ended up enjoying himself thoroughly. 

"I'm pumped up," Ikakhik said after the game. "I'm still feeling it. That was really cool to see and be a part of." 

Fans in the bleachers root for Team Nunavut and Team Alaska playing in the final of the Arctic Winter Games
Nunavut fans made some noise during the game. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Gregory Wiseman led the game in points with one goal and two assists. Kadin Eetuk, Michal Emiktowt and Prime Paniyuk also scored goals, with assists from Terence Pilakapsi, Ray Jr. Pudlat and Koby Connelly.

Team N.W.T. won bronze after beating Team Alberta North 5-4.


  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Terence Pilakapsi as Justin Issakiark. CBC regrets the error.
    Feb 08, 2023 12:23 PM CT

With files from John Van Dusen, George Maratos