Nunavut curling team gearing up for Scotties Tournament of Hearts

The team, led by skip Brigitte MacPhail, is training in Nova Scotia before heading to national competition

From left: Brigitte MacPhail, Sadie Pinksen, Kaitlin MacDonald and Alison Taylor are currently training in Nova Scotia as they gear up to represent Nunavut in the 2022 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Photo courtesy of Alison Taylor)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

One week before the beginning of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, Canada’s top women’s curling championship, Team Nunavut was driving through Nova Scotia, from Halifax to Port Hawkesbury in Cape Breton.

The team, led by skip Brigitte MacPhail, had its first practice as a full unit on Jan. 20, as it’s made up of players who currently live in different parts of Canada.

Alison Taylor, the team’s lead, lives in Iqaluit, and is the only player who currently lives in Nunavut.

Third Sadie Pinksen and MacPhail live in Halifax; MacPhail works as a chiropractor and Pinksen, a Nunavut resident, studies at Dalhousie University. Kaitlin MacDonald, the team’s second, lives in Souris, P.E.I., and studies at the University of Prince Edward Island. She is also a resident of Nunavut.

Taylor only just met her teammates this week. She says that she’s excited to compete, but also that she and her teammates have chatted with a sport psychologist to find ways to manage the nerves that come when you head into a major national competition.

“The key is not comparing ourselves to others on the ice, it’s playing to the best of our ability, make goals for ourselves,” Taylor said.

Curlers in Iqaluit have faced several setbacks over the past few months, as the curling club has been closed due to the water crisis and the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

Taylor says that not having access to a rink and being far from her Maritime teammates has been a challenge, but she has managed to overcome much of it with at-home workouts and video coaching sessions.

“Certainly, it’s been a challenge in that way, we’re doing our best as a team,” she said.

Scotties draws in a significant TV audience each year, as the tournament showcases Canada’s top female curlers going head-to-head on a national stage. Team Nunavut says they’re looking forward to friends and family tuning in to the game. MacPhail, however, says she’s looking forward to some of her chiropractic patients cheering her on.

“A lot of patients were asking me, ‘Why are you taking two weeks off? Who’s going to take care of me?’” MacPhail said.

“They quickly understood when I told them that we were going to head over to Scotties Tournament of Hearts to compete against some of the best teams in Canada, and they got really excited for me.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, fans will not be allowed to watch from inside the Fort William Gardens for the first few days of the tournament. That may change on Jan. 31 when some restrictions are lifted and the Ontario government allows arenas to open to a capacity of 500.

Despite some of the challenges Team Nunavut has faced leading up to the tournament, team veteran Pinksen says she’s looking forward to getting out on the ice and putting on a good performance.

“We’re going in knowing that we did everything we can to prepare,” Pinksen said. “We want to make our communities proud, make each other proud and really show up.”

Nunavut’s first game is on Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. ET versus Prince Edward Island.

Clarification: This story has been updated to include the fact two players living outside Nunavut are Nunavut residents.

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(20) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bllbo Carpetbaggin’s on

    It’s inexplicable to me that only one player on our team actually lives here…

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    • Posted by VK on

      Actually Bllbo, three players live in Nunavut. Two of which are students attending school.

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      • Posted by Bllbo Carpetbaggin’s on

        Hi VK, my comment is based on this quote from the article:

        “Alison Taylor, the team’s lead, lives in Iqaluit, and is the only player who currently lives in Nunavut.”

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        • Posted by AD on

          The article has been updated and was not accurate

    • Posted by Studying “Abroad” on

      My understanding is that the rules allow a team to have one player that is not a resident of the P/T (McPhail). Sadie Pinksen has lived her entire life in Iqaluit and is currently studying out of territory at Dalhousie, surely that shouldn’t disqualify her. MacDonald may be in the same situation, as it says she’s studying at UPEI.

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    • Posted by Northerner on

      Good luck , bring back the stanley cup

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  2. Posted by Umingmak on

    Uhh…this team doesn’t look even remotely representative of Nunavut. 80% Inuit population. 0% Inuit team? Yikes.

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    • Posted by Grab a Broom Then on

      Yes, the 4 person curling team from Iqaluit (50% Inuit population) is not representative of the demographic. I’m also astonished that the USA men’s basketball team is not representative of the demographics in the States.

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      • Posted by Cold island bear on

        Dont compare nunavut to a huge population and expect us to just give in like they do.

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        • Posted by Token of Appreciation on

          Expect you to give in? Like they do? Are you saying that white Americans have given in on having equal representation on the American basketball team? That’s sad. You should offer your support, maybe start an awareness campaign.
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          In all seriousness, the smaller population actually makes it more difficult to have equal representation. We’re talking about a 4 person team in a town of 8,000. If you’re filling 12 positions out of a population of 350,000,000, it’s theoretically easier to have more diversity. Although I’d argue that these positions should be filled by merit, rather than tokenism.
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          Are you an Inuk female curler that wanted to be on the team? Do you know any?

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  3. Posted by Let’s be Happy For These Women! on

    It’s really disappointing to see negative comments always come up about Nunavut Curling teams. Here is a group of talented young women that work really hard at a sport that they love and who are excited to represent the territory they call home. Two of these women grew up in Iqaluit (could have mentioned that Nunatsiaq) and have now moved away to pursue post secondary education, while one lives here and puts a lot of effort into being a part of the community and promoting the sport. On top of that Sadie Pinksen Has represented Nunavut on the National stage more than any other player ever to play out of this territory, the first game at this Scotties tournament is going to be her 100th game at the National level! 100th GAMEP PEOPLE! Where is the support for this amazing woman and her accomplishments!?!?

    The Iqaluit Curling Club also puts a lot of work into recruiting people of all ages from the community to come and try the sport and has many opportunities for training to learn or improve as a player. If anyone is interested in playing or wants a shot at representing Nunavut on the national stage take a step into the building and try sliding a rock down the ice. Put in the work and you could be in the picture above.

    I’m excited that Nunavut gets to have a teams in prestigious national events like this and I’ll be cheering this team on and wishing them the best of luck at this upcoming tournament. Make us Proud!!

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    • Posted by Phil Lange on

      re: Inuit curling in the 1970s. During the 1970s I often flew into Sanirajak and, being a stranger in town, many evenings I was kindly invited to watch curling. The curlers were approx. 50-50—Inuit and non-Inuit—and the games were always played with loud enthusiasm. People had such a great time. In the 1970s in the NWT, Inuit and non-Inuit mostly tended to have their own evening social activities with their own language groups. But the Sanirajak curling club was the most integrated evening social group I saw in the nine Inuit communities I used to visit. I told friends there was so much enthusiasm for the sport, I could see world class Inuit curlers coming out of the North!

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  4. Posted by In Rankin on

    Best of Luck TEAM NUNAVUT!!!

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  5. Posted by token star on

    no token inuk? hahah jk

  6. Posted by Cold island bear on

    Iqaluit and Rankin had curling teams that had inuit on their teams, so why arent any of those inuit representing us?
    Thats cool of them if they live here but they dont look anything representative of Nunavut.
    Only qablunaqs will see no problem in this, amirite?

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    • Posted by Untermensch on

      As long as they are residents of Nunavut I see no problem… why should you?

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    • Posted by Back to Hibernation on

      Well, Mr. Bear,
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      Normally in competitive sports, teams compete against each other in order to earn the right to go compete at higher levels. If there were other female curling teams in Iqaluit/Rankin that were interested in going, I would assume that this team outperformed them to earn the right to go compete at the Scotties.
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      Is that a problem? Should these Nunavut residents have been excluded from participating because of their skin colour?

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  7. Posted by Woke Nunavut on

    In the name of diversity, equity and inclusion I call on the Nunavut Curling Association to address the question of misrepresentation and erasure of Nunavut’s historically marginalized people’s in its curling program.

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    • Posted by #LandBack on

      This is colonial violence!

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  8. Posted by JOHN ELL on

    Nunavut Yeehaa!! We will be cheering for you! ALIANAIT!

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