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Tuk family full of hockey stars

Katie May
Northern News Services
Published Monday, April 19, 2010

TUKTOYAKTUK - At 14 years old, Kevin Krengnektak is already considered one of Tuk's natural-born talents on the rink - he's got a gold ulu and a Most Valuable Player award to prove it.

But when your mother runs the local minor hockey league, your father and your uncle are your coaches, your older sister is a star goalie for a top university team and your older brother keeps you sharp during games, you've got to give a little credit to nurture over nature.

"I've just loved to play hockey ever since I was young," says Kevin, who learned to skate on Tuk's Airport Lake when he was about five years old. "I just keep skating," he added modestly.

He said having a family so involved in the sport adds a bit of pressure at times, but it keeps him motivated.

"It feels good - everybody's playing hockey," he said, adding that, as a forward, he has learned a lot about the sport from all of his family members. His sister, goalie Leah Sulyma, was named MVP for the Northeastern University Huskies in Boston, where she's been playing for three years. His 16-year-old brother Michael, who plays centre and whom he's had to go up against a few times during practice games, helps him grow stronger with a little friendly competition.

The brothers were a team on March 28, though, when they won the Jamboree division for team Teslin at the Yukon Indian Hockey Association tournament in Whitehorse - a good game but one that pales in comparison to his gold medal game in Grand Prairie, Alta., Kevin said.

"It was exciting," he said. While he names his first Arctic Winter Games experience as the highlight of his young career so far, he also gets a kick out of helping his uncle, Pat Kuptana, coach younger kids at the arena.

"It inspires the kids," he said. "They get better every year ... they listen good."

His mom, Sarah Krengnektak, has been organizing Tuk's minor hockey league for nearly 10 years now. She said the kids have grown up to love the sport.

"It's pretty exciting. We've got very athletic children and it's good to see them excel," she said, explaining they all do a lot of travelling back and forth to games together.

"It's all worth it," she said. "For the whole league, just to see the youth go out and have fun doing something positive rather than getting involved with drugs, and crimes with boredom and all that other negative stuff. It's good to see the kids being active and doing something positive in the community."

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