Kuujjuarapik shoots for Hockeyville prize

Community’s Samson Dick Memorial Arena would earn $250,000 in upgrade, host NHL pre-season game if bid is successful

The Samson Dick Memorial Arena, seen here, is a hub for the hockey-obsessed community of Kuujjuarapik, says local teacher Dakotah Lapierre. She says she hopes winning Kraft Hockeyville will help the arena get the upgrades it needs. (Photo courtesy of Dakotah Lapierre)

By Jeff Pelletier

Kuujjuarapik residents are hoping to score a major arena upgrade by entering the Canada-wide Kraft Hockeyville contest.

Hockeyville is an annual competition that invites communities to bid for prize money they can use to upgrade their local rinks.

The winning community receives $250,000 and gets to host a National Hockey League pre-season game. The other three communities nominated to the top four get $25,000 each, Hockeyville’s website says.

In Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik’s southernmost community, the Samson Dick Memorial Arena is a hub for a town obsessed with hockey, said teacher Dakotah Lapierre.

With a population of 1,517, the arena brings Kuujjuarapik’s Inuit, Cree and non-Indigenous residents together for hockey games, recreational activities in the gym, and community banquets.

“The kids, as a teacher, all they talk about is hockey,” Lapierre said. “Every day they come in, they tell me stats about hockey players, who’s getting traded, they tell me if they were playing hockey the night before.”

Over the past two years, the arena has periodically closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions. But even without the pandemic, the arena’s generator is susceptible to breakdowns that cause the ice to melt.

Lapierre said winning a Hockeyville prize would allow the community to fly in maintenance workers and the parts needed to ensure the ice stays consistent for regular, and frequent, use.

She submitted the community’s bid to the Hockeyville site in late March as part of the “nominate and rally” stage of the competition.

A few days later, residents posted photos and stories telling why they want the arena upgrade and what hockey means to Kuujjuarapik.

“People are super-proud of this community,” Lapierre said. “Everyone is a diehard hockey fan, so that really helps.”

The nominate-and-rally stage wrapped up April 3.

Now, all submitted bids are being reviewed, and on April 23 Hockeyville will announce the top four communities in Canada. The winner will be announced May 7.

At this point, all Lapierre and the people of Kuujjuarapik can do is wait and hope the bid is successful.

Lapierre said she hopes they can earn the upgrade money, and added hosting an NHL game would be a special moment.

“The NHL game would blow people’s minds, I don’t even know if they would understand the concept of having hockey here,” she said.

“That would be life-changing for a ton of kids here.”

This bid is also deeply personal for Lapierre.

Having moved to Kuujjuarapik five years ago to begin her teaching career, she and her family are moving back to Kingston, Ont. in the summer after the school year wraps up.

Lapierre said she hopes a successful Hockeyville bid and an upgraded arena would serve as a parting gift to a place she and her family have been proud to call home.

“I just think it’s kind of cool to give back to a place that has really welcomed me and my family,” she said. “This is important to me, to at least try and give something back before I go.

“I think it would be a really cool thing and everyone in town would appreciate it. It’s little kids playing, all the way to grandparents on that ice, so I thought it would be a nice gesture.”


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(1) Comment:

  1. Posted by Jennifer Hunter on

    This is our neighbors the Cree from Whapmagoostui, Kuujjuaraapik doesn’t have an arena yet .


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