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Yellowknife strike has major impact on young athletes in the city of cafe madrid

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Skaters from Northwest Territories have won big at this year’s Arctic Winter Games.

But for the Canada Winter Games, which started this week, they are clearly at a disadvantage.

A municipal strike that has been underway since Feb. 8 has closed all city facilities in Yellowknife, including both arenas and the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool. It meant that the team barely got any ice time to practice in the two weeks before the games.

The team had its last skate in Yellowknife on February 7, the day before the strike began.

Jody Pellissey is the sports director of skating NWT.

In the 10 days they had before the Canadian Winter Games started, she said the team was able to book some dry practices at École St. Joseph School and do some technical drills on the ice at the arena in Behchokǫ̀.

Group photo of skaters on ice in racing suits.
NWT skaters pose during the 2023 Canadian Winter Games in Prince Edward Island. (Madison Pilling/Skating NWT)

But that arena doesn’t have the crash pads skaters need when racing.

“They’re going into a big game where they’re racing, they’re a little bit behind now with those two missed weeks,” she said.

Speed ​​Skating NWT also canceled the annual NWT Speed ​​Skating Championships, which were scheduled to begin on March 4. The programs to learn to skate that Speed ​​Skating NWT normally organizes for younger children have been canceled completely.

Pellissey says the situation is particularly discouraging after years of restrictions due to COVID-19.

“It’s really disappointing to be back to normal, if you will, and now we can’t skate.”

Losing the championship game, she said, was especially disappointing for clubs from other communities.

“This is their one big get-together a year for them to travel and meet their old and new friends and we just can’t do that this year.”

Father and two daughters with medals.
Justin Nelson poses with his daughters, Kara and Morgan, at the Arctic Winter Games. “As a parent, you know, you like to see your kids moving and doing things that they enjoy.” (Submitted by Justin Nelson)

Justin Nelson has seen the impact of facility closures firsthand. His three children are all competitive skaters and swimmers.

“It’s never a good time, but this is a time when it affects their chances of competing successfully in the South,” he said.

One of his daughters, Morgan, plans to compete in the Canadian Western Youth Championship in short track speed skating, and he said without the arena, her training will be affected.

His other daughter, Kara, missed a chance to qualify for the Alberta Provincial Trials swim meet when the NWT Territorial Swim Championship, scheduled in Yellowknife for February 10, was canceled.

“As a parent, you know, you like to see your kids get some exercise and do things that they enjoy and it’s a shame they can’t do that now.”

‘Just wait and… hope’

Hockey teams in Yellowknife face the same challenge.

The Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association canceled the Chris Bergman Tournament for junior players, which was scheduled to begin February 10. It would be the first time the tournament has taken place since 2019; for the past three years, the event has been canceled due to COVID-19.

Mike Lalonde is the Vice President of the Yellowknife Minor Hockey Association.

He says that while the closures are disappointing, coaches and players have found ways to keep practicing their skills.

Some teams have held practices on dry land at local gyms or fitness clubs. Many of the players also get out and play on Yellowknife’s outdoor rinks.

“We understand this is part of the process,” he said of the workers. “We respect that.

“We will wait a little longer and … hope that there will be a mutually acceptable solution and that we will have some time to get back on the ice.”


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