Puck drops today to open Polar Bear Plate hockey tournament
Junior hockey event one of Nunavut’s most popular, this year featuring eight teams from across territory
One of Nunavut’s biggest hockey tournaments is back following a one-year hiatus as the eight-team Polar Bear Plate begins today.
The tournament for junior-age players — which in hockey can range from 16 to 21 years of age — takes place in Rankin Inlet, and draws teams from across Nunavut.
Last year, the tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19, but this year it is being held from Dec. 15 to 18 at the Agnico Eagle Arena.
The event brings a lot of teams and communities together, said Andrew Pearce, captain of the Iqaluit-based Baffin Blizzard. Pearce, who is in his final year of eligibility, has been playing in the tournament since he was 16.
“It’s a tournament I’ve always looked forward to going to because it gets better and better each year,” he said.
The Blizzard will be defending their title after winning the 2020 Polar Bear Plate. Pearce said this year’s team is as good as those from any of the other years that he’s been with them.
“We all know how to put our heads down and go to work,” he said.
But, he added, the rest of this year’s teams are talented too.
“It should be nice and competitive,” he said.
The eight teams this year are from Naujaat, Arviat, Iqaluit, Coral Harbour, Baker Lake, a Nunavut under-19 team, and two from Rankin Inlet — the Rankin Rock and the Rankin Canucks.
The cost of flights is a big challenge for teams wanting to play in the tournament, Pearce said.
The Iqaluit team was able to get help in lowering the price for flights but even so, Pearce said, three-quarters of the $40,000 it raised went toward plane rides.
Meanwhile, the Kivalliq Canucks hockey club has stepped up to help the rest of the community enjoy the tournament.
The club announced on social media it will donate $20,000 to the tournament so that all spectators can get in to watch for free.
While this year’s event will be held in the new 950-seat Agnico Eagle Arena, Pearce said past tournaments held at the older, smaller arena used to be jam-packed for games.
He said it’s nice to meet up again with friends at the tournament as well as their families who come to the games.
“The barn’s usually rocking every game,” Pearce said.
Play safe and fair. Good luck to all the teams and players.
This great program/tournament wouldn’t exist without the awesome volunteers and parents such as Donald Clark and his son David. Volunteer parents/family. Thank you to all who created
this wonderful opportunity for young people of Nunavut to show their talent and skills.
Thank you to Donald and his family and all the volunteers in Rankin Inlet and other communities
that are participating. Have fun , stay safe.
In other words, good job to hamlet recreation department.