Roller hockey is coming to Arviat and Michael Hunt knows the community will love it.
Hunt, who is one of Canada Inline’s top players, flew into the community from his home in Winnipeg to deliver an inline hockey camp, which began on Aug. 10 with the installation of the Sport Court surface the hamlet purchased to put on top of the concrete base in the arena.
Hunt said the first couple of days he spent in the community was to install the 16,000 sq. ft. of court properly.
“Sport Court is good for multiple sports,” he said. “Concrete sweats when it gets warm and it’s terrible for grip, not to mention the wear and tear on your joints.”
Inline hockey looks just like ice hockey but there are several noticeable differences. It’s a 4-on-4 game as opposed to 5-on-5 with ice hockey, the puck is lighter and there are no offsides or icing.
Hunt said inline hockey actually forces a player to be creative.
“Ice hockey is a dump-and-chase game,” he said. “In inline hockey, you can have a player cherry-pick down at the other end but that forces players to defend them one-on-one. It forces you to pass the puck more and allows for more creativity. There’s nowhere to hide.”
That, in turn, will make participants better ice hockey players once the ice goes back in, he added, because it enables players to work on their skills.
“You remember and keep all of the defensive things you did in inline hockey and incorporate that into how you play ice hockey,” he said. “All of a sudden, it becomes an east-west game, like the Soviet Union used to play, rather than a north-south game, which is what we’re used to.”
The week of camp will be an introduction to the sport for the community and everything will be there for players to get going.
“I brought 50 pairs of girdles, 50 pairs of pants, 100 pucks,” said Hunt. “They’ll get fitted and then we’ll teach them how to skate in blades and, most importantly, how to stop. You can’t stop on the side like you do in ice hockey.”
The most important thing Hunt wants to do is let them play.
“They’re kids and they want to have fun,” he said. “The best thing I can do as a coach is to let them get a feel for everything and let them have fun.”
Inline hockey has more of a foundation than you might think. Canada Inline sends national teams to various international tournaments, including the several world championships on offer each year.
Hunt said the possibilities are endless and that includes education.
“I’ve had kids as young as eight playing on a U10 Canadian team,” he said. “There are hundreds of NHL players who will never get to do play with Team Canada and I’ve had a kid do it. There are universities that offer full scholarships for roller hockey and there are several national teams that travel. The opportunities are there to travel the world, get a degree or even play professionally in some countries.”
Hunt is hopeful he’ll be able to bring this to other Northern communities with Arviat being used as a test to see if it catches on.
“I would love to introduce this across the entire North,” he said. “There was a lot of excitement down south when they heard I was going up so anything I can do to bring the sport to more people, I would love to do.”