The Stanley Cup playoffs are happening right now and one lucky team will get to lift the biggest prize the sport has to offer in June.
In the meantime, hockey’s holy grail is on a goodwill tour of sorts and it returned to Nunavut for a second year running from April 26 to 29, visiting eight communities along the way: Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, Resolute, Hall Beach, Gjoa Haven and Qikitarjuaq. Along with the Cup came 150 bags of brand-new hockey equipment courtesy of Project North, Scotiabank, the National Hockey League and Canadian Tire Jumpstart. Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach and Qikiqtarjuaq were the lucky recipient communities of the gear.
Lanny McDonald, NHL Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup winner in 1989 with the Calgary Flames, and Natalie Spooner, Olympic gold medalist with Canada’s women’s hockey team and Canadian Women’s Hockey League player, were also on the trip. Spooner even brought the Clarkson Cup, the championship trophy of the CWHL, along for the ride as the Toronto Furies, Spooner’s club team, are the reigning champions.
Iqaluit was the first stop on the tour on April 26 with the capital rolling out the red carpet in the form of a free public skate and meet-and-greet with McDonald and Spooner. From there, it was off to Cape Dorset the next morning, where the first batch of equipment was dropped off. It was a true community event as pretty much the entire community came out to take part.
Roy Cole, principal of Peter Pitseolak School, said the Stanley Cup was in the community for about one hour and 40 minutes and everyone took full advantage of the chance to see it.
“The events were held on the outdoor rink about 100 ft. from the school,” he said. “Lots of parents were out there with their kids and both schools in the community were there. They wanted to do the activities outdoors.”
Spooner even took the chance to get on the ice and play around with some of the youth, he added, and getting the chance to meet McDonald was a thrill for some.
“Lanny was definitely the highlight,” he said. “It was good for the community to have this happen here because hockey is what makes our community. You have people here who, from the time they can walk, have a hockey stick in their hands and it’s a real rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.”
In a press release, McDonald stated he was excited to come back to Nunavut for a second time running.
“Seeing how much the communities in Nunavut, particularly the young fans, embraced our tour last year was really touching,” he said.
Michelle Valberg, Project North’s founder and president, said it’s been eight years strong for the organization and its work and she’s happy to have it continue.
“Our organization has been working closely with these communities, and have witnessed their incredible stories first-hand,” she said. “We are thrilled to be able to bring the Stanley Cup to them, and we hope it inspires them to play for years to come.”