'The kids are lucky to be able to count on people like them.'

Top hockey trainers lauded in Nunavik


Moses Kasadluak of Inukjuak and Nadeau Audlaluk of Ivujivik overcame bad ice and poor hockey equipment to rally enthusiasm for Nunavik's youth hockey program and its stay-in-school message, says NHL hockey legend Joe Juneau.

"Nadeau and Moses have done a tremendous job this past winter. Their behaviour under this program is a wonderful example for other local hockey trainers, recreation animators and Nunavik citizens. The kids are all very lucky to be able to count on people like them," said Juneau, who is in charge of the region's hockey program.

Last September, the Kativik Regional Government hired the 39-year-old Juneau – an engineer, Olympic medalist and former NHL player – to spearhead its Nunavik youth hockey program, which uses hockey to keep kids in school and out of trouble.

In March, Juneau warned the KRG that some local trainers hired for the program hadn't been doing their jobs. Juneau said it was frustrating and "a waste of time" when he arrived in a community with limited time and had to round up kids himself, make sure they had equipment and ice ready for skating.

Last week, Juneau and Sammy Koneak, the KRG's regional recreation director, recognized Kasadluak and Audlaluk for their good work as hockey trainers at a special ceremony in Kangiqsujuaq.

Kasadluak was praised for meeting once a month with his players' teachers to get feedback on their school attendance and behavior.

"He was on the ice five times a week, through stormy or good weather, teaching them the basics of hockey, until the ice finally melted in April," Koneak said.

Due to the unusually warm weather, the hockey season in Ivujivik – Nunavik's most northerly community – didn't even start until February. Then, there was no manager for the arena rink.

But Audlaluk had already started the hockey program in November on a nearby lake.

"This gave the kids the opportunity to start skating. When there was too much snow on the lake, Nadeau moved the program to the streets of Ivujivik, where he taught them to play street hockey, on foot, with just a hockey stick in hand," Koneak said.

Audlaluk also raised money to purchase more hockey pucks by raffling off two donated Air Inuit tickets to Montreal.

When Ivujivik's arena finally opened, Audlaluk, his hockey players and some local residents cleaned the ice manually, using shovel scrapers and sheets of plywood. The arena, in poor condition and needing major repairs, closed in early April after vandals entered and broke all the hockey program's equipment.

The KRG's youth hockey program will start up again in September.

It's among the first projects to receive money from Nunavik's new crime-fighting program, the result of a deal with Quebec to trade the construction of a provincial jail for about $300 million.

In 2007, youth hockey will receive $884,194 towards the two-year project's $1.2 million cost.

The Safer Communities program is also giving money to traditional summer camps, a healing centre and groups for men and women.


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