Ask anyone who knows anything about Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, people there are crazy about hockey.
The community is home to one of the most famous Inuit ever in Jordin Tootoo, which could help explain the community’s love for hockey.
The former NHLer played on four different NHL teams, amassing 161 points over a 723-game career and his face can be on the welcome sign into Rankin Inlet.
With a week off of school for teachers, and no cases of COVID-19 in the territory despite a surge in other parts of the country, the week-long Northwestel Rankin Rockey hockey camp welcomed hundreds of kids to the town’s new $26 million arena.
The annual season opening hockey camp has been going on now for at least five years.
David Clarke, recreation director in Rankin Inlet, says the camp is not just about hockey, but life and community spirit for Nunavut’s second largest community.
“We started this kind of, not only to develop our players, but to have them have a really good start to the season,” Clark told APTN News. “It is a way we teach kids, not only about the sport, but how to be good teammates, it sets a foundation for the season. It’s way more than hockey, it’s a community pride thing.”
Rankin Inlet is located roughly an hour and a half by air west of Iqaluit. While hockey is one of the draws for those who attend the camp, organizers manage to slide in some life skills along with the skating.
“We take them to the gym for off ice fitness testing and stuff, we go to the library for literacy stuff, it’s not only on ice stuff,” says Keenan Eetok, one of the instructors at the Northwestel Rankin Rock hockey camp.
The kids get a lot out of the camp in terms of hockey skill development and life lessons, but so too do the instructors who teach the kids.
“What’s fun for me about it, is that the kids, like I just see their happiness, and how much they enjoy the sport,” stated Xavier Kubluitok, another instructor at the season opening camp.
Much of the gear is donated from kids who outgrew it, and the hockey program just distributed $10,000 worth of gear free to the kids.
Clark says hockey isn’t the goal of the camp, in this case hockey is being used to teach lessons.
“They take it for what it is. It’s a sport, it’s fun, there’s times when hockey’s very competitive, that will come in their later years, but this camp is about skill development, having a good time, learning how to be better players but also better people,” he says.
There is more to Rankin Inlet than hockey, but as this camp shows, there is more to a hockey camp than just hockey too.