The Miners broke a six-year drought by defeating team Rankin Inlet 4-0 to claim the 2018 Terence Tootoo Memorial (TTM) senior men’s championship in front of a sold-out arena in Rankin Inlet on March 11.
Coral Harbour’s young team went 4-0 through the round robin before being nipped by Arviat in the bronze medal game.
David Clark played on the champion Miners and he said the past six years have been tough, especially having made every final except one during that period but never managing to capture the championship.
He said those second-place finishes made for long summers and lots of thinking about why the team kept coming-up short.
“The depth of our team made the difference this year, along with some timely saves and timely scoring,” said Clark. “We got off to a really rough start and weren’t playing very well, but playing those extra games helped us figure out what to do with our lineup, and some things were said on the bench and in our dressing room that sparked a fire under the rear-ends of some guys.”
“I’ve always been a firm believer in that you need to play your best games on Sunday,” he added.
Clark said the TTM didn’t have as much hard-nosed hockey this year as in years past, but that’s the direction hockey has gone today. The old more physical style of hockey suited his own game, he said, but with stricter officiating, penalties have become more costly.
“Just like you see in the NHL, there are less-and-less guys playing that hard-nosed type of hockey and I think that’s kind of sad to be honest with you,” he said. “(But) you want to help your team win and, today, it’s more about staying out of the box, playing fast and moving the puck quickly.”
Organizing committee member Troy Aksalnik said it was nice to finally have the weather co-operate with the TTM, allowing all the teams to be played and the round-robin schedule to start on time.
He said it’s always a challenge to have the divisions aligned evenly so that every team has an equal chance of advancing to the playoffs.
“It was a little tougher this year because we only had nine teams with Baker Lake dropping out so late,” said Aksalnik.“(And) we’d like to see Iqaluit start coming again because there’s always a big buzz when they’re in town, and all the other teams seem to play harder against them because they’re often seen as the team to beat when they’re here.”
Aksalnik said the TTM committee did a lot of fundraising during the tournament, including holding a giant raffle with a $10,000 top prize.
He said tournament sponsor Calm Air donated three sets of tickets to the raffle, one of which came with a pair of tickets to a Winnipeg Jets game.
In addition, Agnico Eagle Mines donated a trip for two on its Nolinor charter to Montreal, three nights hotel accommodations and a pair of tickets to a Montreal Canadiens game.
“Our local business community – Umingmak, Kativik, the Northern store and Kissarvik Co-op – also donated items which we put together as the raffle’s sixth prize of a qamutiik and hunting-and-fishing supplies,” he said. “We owe a great deal of thanks to our sponsors, because we wouldn’t be able to do this without their continued support.”
Aksalnik said you need a good group to run an event like the TTM, and he had that this year with the help of Hamish Tatty, David Clark, Simone Clark and Brian Tattuinee, who posted tournament updates on social media.
He hopes future tournaments will be divided into A and B divisions, which would increase the level of play.