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Bitter puck to swallow

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The community of Arviat was stunned after learning its top hockey tournament of the year had to be cancelled this past week.

The cancellation of the Jon Lindell Memorial (JLM) senior men's hockey tournament came just weeks after organizers had announced the signing of Calm Air as a major sponsor for the event.

The JLM had been set to run from Feb. 16-19. It has now been scheduled for Jan. 17-20, 2013.

Arviat Senior Men's Hockey League president Gleason Uppahuak said he was devastated when informing the community of the cancellation.

He said the tournament committee made the decision at a meeting, Jan. 25 after it became obvious there was too much uncertainty surrounding the ongoing work at the local arena.

"There's still quite a bit of work to do, as I understand it, and there were just too many other hockey tournaments booked across the Kivalliq for us to reschedule the JLM this year," said Uppahuak.

"It's a major blow to the community because everyone was looking forward to this year's JLM after the success of the 2011 tournament.

"All we can do now is work hard to make sure our 2013 tournament is the best one we've ever hosted.

"But even though our arena still won't be open for awhile, Arviat still plans to send its players out to the tournaments we attend every year, like the Avataq Cup in Rankin Inlet."

Uppahuak said hopes will be high again next year, especially when the renovations at the arena are completed and the new thermosyphon system is up and running.

He said the extra time may even mean bigger prize monies will up for grabs at the 2013 JLM.

"Myself and our committee worked hard all summer, fall and winter to make this year's JLM our biggest one yet, so of course we're all disappointed.

"We've already heard from Calm Air, however, and the airline fully intends to remain as our sponsor, so that's good news moving forward," he said.

"We're going to work really hard now to have 10 teams at next year's JLM and make it one of the Kivalliq's biggest hockey events of the year."

Jackson Lindell said his family is OK with the decision to cancel this years tournament, which bears his father's name.

He said the last thing his family wants is for Arviat to rush opening its arena for the tournament's sake, and taking any unnecessary risks with the players or the building.

"You can't do much about not having ice in and ready to go," said Jackson.

"My family discussed it a great deal and we felt everyone would be better off if Arviat didn't rush to put its concrete down and get its ice in, just in case something happened.

"We'd all feel pretty bad if something went wrong, and we knew the reason was they were rushing because of the JLM tournament."

Jackson said the Lindell family feels January is a great time for Arviat to host the tournament.

He said holding it later in the year, like early April, wouldn't attract the same level of participation.

"We agreed the best thing right now is just to cancel the JLM for this year.

"In a hockey sense, it's a little disappointing because we were really excited about this year's tournament," Jackson said.

"Everyone on the team we put together last year (Karetakers) had so much fun.

"We had convinced a few more family members to join the team this year, so we were going to have a pretty good team and we were all looking forward to having a lot more fun at this year's event."

Jackson said the Karetakers had new jerseys made for the 2012 JLM that the team was looking forward to unveiling. He said if it weren't for ice issues keeping this year's tournament from going ahead, he's confident the event would have built upon last year's success and raised the level of the JLM another notch.

"The possibility is there for the JLM to rise to the same level as the First Air Avataq Cup in Rankin some day.

"The organizing committee realizes the JLM brings a lot to the entire Arviat community, not just Arviat's hockey community.

"Once the whole community realizes that, it will have even more growth potential because of its proximity to Northern Manitoba.

"That gives it the chance to attract teams from Manitoba communities, which is something the Avataq Cup has never been able to do."

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