Brier win another coming of age moment for Nunavut

Curlers prove territory can compete on a national stage

Nunavut’s team at the Brier curling tournament poses as the men’s curling championship began March 3. By winning their first-ever game and playing competitively in others, this year’s squad showed they came to play. Team members are, from left, coach Blair Evans, skip Jake Higgs, Sheldon Wettig, Brady St. Louis, Christian Smitheram, and alternate Terry Lichty. (Photo by Ed Klajman, special to Nunatsiaq News)

By Corey Larocque

It was easy to get swept up in the excitement over Nunavut’s team at the Brier tournament, Canada’s men’s curling championship.

The Nunavut squad had a moment in the round-robin of the tournament that wraps up this weekend in London, Ont. Nunavut didn’t make the playoffs. Again. It never has, actually.

But curling fans will look back on this year’s event as Nunavut’s coming of age at the Brier. On March 4, in its first game of the tournament, the territory’s team won for the first time, snapping a 44-game, seven-year losing streak.

They went on to play competitive games, instead of losing blowouts that had been typical of past performances.

Everyone loves an underdog story. Because of its small, far-flung population, Nunavut is full of them. Just last summer, Nunavummiut — and Canadians, generally — fell in love with Cambridge Bay wrestler Eekeeluak Avalak, who won Nunavut’s first-ever medal at the Canada Summer Games, a gold.

Nunavut’s men’s curling team has pulled off a similar feat. It’s hard to say how big a moment it was in the sporting history of Nunavut. But it was certainly something.

The 8,000-strong crowd at the London, Ont., arena gave the Nunavut win a standing ovation.

It was a beautiful moment of sportsmanship. The crowd recognized that sporting success doesn’t come as easily to the territory as it does to bigger, richer parts of the country. Curling fans knew that ending that losing streak got a monkey off Nunavut’s back. They were on their feet, welcoming Nunavut to the club.

Instead of being token representatives so the tournament can lay claim to being a national event, Team Nunavut proved it came to play.

But, of course, the curlers had their critics among the fast-typing keyboard warriors in this paper’s comments section and on social media. They’re not Inuit, they protested. They’re not from the North, they said.

It’s too bad so many Nunavummiut feel the need to tear down their own.

Some day, an all-Inuit team might take to the ice. When that happens, all Nunavummiut will proudly stand behind them. But for now, this is who we’ve got. Why not embrace them?

Terry Lichty is a 46-year-old Northmart manager in Iqaluit, who moved north a year and a half ago.

Christian Smitheram is a 30-year-old Canadian North pilot who is from Ontario but now calls Iqaluit home.

And Brady St. Louis, a 25-year-old crane operator, was born in Iqaluit but now lives in Ontario. Probably not much call for crane operators in Nunavut.

Can you get much more Nunavut than that? Not without being Inuk, apparently.

Jake Higgs is a 47-year-old high school teacher from Strathroy, Ont. He is what’s known in the curling world as a “designated import.” Each team is allowed to bring in one player from outside to help round out a team.

If the sport didn’t do something to level the playing field, it’s likely Canadian curling would be dominated by Ontario, Quebec, Alberta or B.C. (And Newfoundland and Labrador, of course.)

Curling came up with a way to make its men’s national championship truly national — with representation from every province and territory. No matter how small, how wealthy or how skilled.

It’s such a Canadian thing. Treat everyone as an equal, even though everyone knows some are born with more advantages than others.


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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by Not quite on

    “Nunavut’s men’s curling team has pulled off a similar feat… [to Eekeeluak Avalak]”

    This is what we call ‘creative license’

  2. Posted by Former Inuk Curler on

    As an inuk who used to be involved in the sport in Nunavut, I gotta say people have a right to be disappointed in the way the team is made up, the Nunavut Curling association and Iqaluit curling club are not welcoming or even safe for Inuit.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      The club has faced a very challenging two to three years because of COVID and the water crisis. The volunteers are simply trying to keep the doors open, while continuing to focus efforts on Little Rock’s and Juniors – including increasing the number of Inuit kids in programming. If Inuit feel the space is not safe, please share your thoughts on how we can do better at We’d welcome more participation from community members at the board level and becoming involved in the sport.

  3. Posted by Ok on

    Enough with treating this particular team with the Nunavut. These guys aren’t living here. Why is Nunatsiaq News putting in so much time and effort with this particular team? Where we’re they when Nunavut Gold and Bronze at the Arctic Winter Games? This is not even close in comparison to what that wrestler did winning gold, stop comparing that amazing gold medal victory to this group of people “with close ties” to Nunavut winning one match lmao. “This isn’t your grandparents team Nunavut” lmao yes, it isn’t yours either guy not even living here

    • Posted by Close Ties on

      Yes I’m also curious as to who at Nunatsiaq News has “close ties” to someone on this team? This story seems pretty personal and just an overkill on stories about this team. Give it a rest.

  4. Posted by Seriously on

    Curlers prove territory can compete. Can compete by bringing in people that are not from the territory. The skip is a washed up Ontario resident who figures he can have his dream lived by spending a week or two maybe to come to Iqaluit. They all admit they don’t get an opportunity to practice together because they are not from Nunavut.
    Since curling Canada changed the rules to allow teams to bring in a player from outside the territory everything changed and in many ways killed curling in Iqaluit.
    It’s been said that Nunavut will never be in a position to compete at this level, my point is do they really need too? Nunavut is unique because anyone can have the opportunity to compete on a National level and that is great, do they expect to win the Scotties or the Brier or the Juniors? Not the point, the sport was fun and now Curling Canada and dreamers like Jake, Brady and the others has help kill the interest in the sport. In the old days there were many Inuit involved but now we have switched from being competitive to wanting to be professional and it is just select people like this group that benefits.
    Iqaluit Curling Club needs to go back to basics, encourage the sport and let real local kids grow and develop and go to the competitions for the experience, there is fun in the sport and no shame to not meeting the standards of professionals. Get coaches trained in Nunavut and not a coach from Nova Scotia who gets paid to coach. The curling passion is gone and the blind executive of the club has killed it.
    However you are hero’s in your own right. Jake be a hero in Ontario where you can’t fit into a winning league.

  5. Posted by Good Pay on

    Both Baffinland and Sabina are advertising for a crane operator.

  6. Posted by Be better on

    It’s been three months since we’ve seen an editorial, and this is what we get?

  7. Posted by Alex on

    I am not going to speak on whether or not this editorial or the coverage on Nunatsiaq is overkill. I can speak on some of the other topics.

    Believe it or not, this issue is not just an isolated Nunavut curling issue. This is actually an epidemic currently going on in the sport of curling. The smaller the province, the more this can become an issue. Curling is facing a difficult position where a lot of the rec side of the sport can’t be supported, where a lot of the National body to keep money flowing from its sponsors is attempting to fund the high performance side. I mean listen to Kevin Martin’s podcast, and you’ll hear how the pro’s see this and feed that narrative.

    Personally speaking, Iqaluit Curling Club is constantly looking for volunteers and build its community. Trust me, if you show up, and ask to help, they’ll welcome you with open arms to build up the Grassroots side of the sport. They can’t do it alone. Its easy to sit here and blame it all on these 4 guys, but they are following the High performance stream by Curling Canada standards. If you want to curl for Nunavut, there are many opportunities for Nunavut to play rec, or even in National events. The brier and scotties are the only import events. Show up to the club, and talk to the volunteers running it, I swear you will not be met with any resistance. ICC is very interested in growing the community and being an open place for all to have a good and fun time.


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