Rankin Inlet hockey players raise $62K to attend Wickfest

The Rankin Inlet Rock girl's hockey team fundraised nearly $62,000 to attend Wickfest, hosted by Canadian hockey icon Hayley Wickenheiser.

'We all felt overwhelmed and very excited' says Rankin Inlet Rock coach Mikki Adams

Rankin Inlet Rock coaches Mikki Adams (far left) and manager Verna Strickland (far right) pose with Hayley Wickenheiser at Wickfest 2015 in Calgary. (Submitted by Mikki Adams)

Meeting the most iconic female hockey player in the world, scrimmaging with a university team, and learning everything about hockey were but some of the top memories for the Rankin Inlet Rock girl's hockey team, who are home after a week-long trip to Wickfest in Calgary.

But even making it to the festival may be what the Nunavut-based girls remember most from the experience.

The team raised nearly $62,000 in seven months, through everything from dances to bake sales, to be able to make their second trip to Wickfest in as many years – the festival is hosted by five-time Olympic medalist Hayley Wickenheiser.

"We all felt overwhelmed and very excited. Once the girls realized they were actually going to go, they were ecstatic. They couldn't believe they actually reached their goal," said Rock coach Mikki Adams.

"No matter how hard a goal is, if you believe in yourself and stay dedicated, ultimately you can reach any goal."

The fundraising effort wasn't lost on Wickenheiser either, who tweeted the accomplishment to her 44,000 followers and even waived the team's $1,950 registration fee.

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"I'm just so amazed. I think we've really created a bond of friendship and desire of passion in them to want to come every year," said Wickenheiser.

"Penny sales and bake sales, we did all that when we were in minor hockey. But they're coming from an exceptionally long distance. I think it's just awesome and I'm so proud they come to the tournament. It's one of my highlights when I see them walk through the doors."

Indeed. Adams got quite the warm reception from the hockey icon when the team got to the arena. Adams says Wickenheiser spotted her and came running.

"It was a great feeling because she ran to me and gave me a hug, and others in the arena were wondering 'Why is Hayley running to them instead of her running to Hayley?' " Adams recalled.

But even after they reached their original goal of $55,000, they were left scrambling with two weeks to go because Adams says their airfare was $10,000 more than what they planned for. She blames the Northern airlines' codeshare agreement.

The Rankin Inlet Rock pose with the Mount Royal University women's team after a scrimmage in Calgary. (Submitted by Mikki Adams)

All hockey, all week

Half of the Rock players were first-timers at Wickfest this year and Adams says they were "speechless" at the start of the six-day trip.

One of the highlights was playing pickup hockey with the Mount Royal University women's team. Adams says some of her players were inspired to try and play university hockey in the future. They also met some of the Calgary Inferno players – Calgary's professional women's hockey team – and caught a game.

"That was a great experience too," Adams said. "They got a feel for what it takes to play university hockey, and to meet the coach and see the dressing room, and how intense their practices are."

Adams hopes the experience, plus the Wickfest workshops on mental and physical toughness, will pay dividends for eight of her players, who have been selected to Team Nunavut for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in March. Those players include:

  • Tia Adams
  • Joy Angnetsiak 
  • Nicole Ymana 
  • Addybelle Lindell 
  • Amber Graham 
  • Joanna Anawak
  • ​Riley Lachance
  • ​Dayna Cox