Hosea Aculiak, a forward for the Picton Pirates, is originally from Inukjuak. (Photo courtesy of the Picton Pirates)

Inukjuak player starts new chapter with Ontario junior hockey team

Hosea Aculiak, 19, already has first goal as Picton Pirates forward

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A young hockey player from Nunavik has already scored his first goal for his new junior C team in southern Ontario.

But Hosea Aculiak has bigger goals in mind for when his own career is over: He wants to return home to Inukjuak to teach the game to youngsters there.

Aculiak, 19, earned a spot last month as a forward for the Picton Pirates of the Provincial Junior Hockey League, a 64-team league in the third tier of the Ontario Hockey Association. He scored his first goal Sept. 29 in the second period of a 6-3 loss to the Napanee Raiders.

As the tradition goes, he got to keep the puck as a memento of an exciting, but surprising, moment.

“I didn’t really know what was going on because it happened very fast,” Aculiak said in an interview. “I didn’t know how to celebrate that.”

Listed on his team’s website at five foot 10 and 170 pounds, Aculiak started playing hockey as a kid in Inukjuak through the Nunavik Youth Hockey Development Program that former NHLer Joé Juneau helped launch, but which was cut in 2017.

In Picton, Aculiak is billeted with the family of a teammate he skated with in Inukjuak. He’s been living there for two months, and received financial assistance from Makivik Corp. to help with his expenses.

“That’s how I kept going,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here without [Makivik Corp.].”

Life in Picton, located in the heart of Prince Edward County about 160 kilometres east of Toronto, is far removed from that in Inukjuak. The county is a popular summer vacation destination on Lake Ontario known for its sand dunes, cottages and wineries.

Aculiak said he likes living in a community where there’s lots to do. However, being away from the North means he misses one of his favourite passions: hunting.

“You can’t hunt here without your firearm licence or hunting licence, but up North you can do whatever you want,” he said.

“Since I have to work with my team right now, I can’t go for my hunting licence, so it’s kind of hard to think about it.

“It’s my life,” he said. “I love hunting.”

With the regular season underway, Aculiak said he’s getting used to taking heavier hits every game in a more physical league. As he develops as a player, he’s hoping the team has a successful run deep into the playoffs.

Currently, the Pirates sit in third place in the six-team East Tod Division with four wins and two losses.

Aculiak’s role model is Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk to play for the National Hockey League.

As a Picton Pirate, Aculiak wears No. 22 — the same number Tootoo wore for most of his 13-year NHL career.

After his own career is over, Aculiak hopes to return to Inukjuak and coach the next generation of young hockey players, who he says already look up to him for what he has accomplished so far.

“I know there’s lots of kids in my town that want to play hockey,” he said.

“I want to start coaching the younger kids up North.”

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(3) Comments:

  1. Posted by George Fisher on

    Congratulations Aculiak!
    Love the fact you plan to go home and pass on your skills.
    Best of “puck luck” in the future

  2. Posted by Mom on

    Irniniivanga upigusuppunga
    I am most proud of my son who’s been playing hockey since he was a baby I love you irnik and proud of you I’m sure umuour ataatak is proud of you in heaven ummmm

  3. Posted by Noah Eddie Oweetaluktuk on

    WOW, YAW. Whooohooo!!!! Alright saunik. We are so proud of you 👍. Keep your head up on and off the ice. Very good very good. You make us so proud. 🥲


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