Rankin Inlet will be seeking a third straight title when the puck drops to begin the new look Calm Air Cup Jon Lindell Memorial (JLM) senior men’s hockey championship in Arviat from Jan. 24-27.
The second largest senior men’s tourney in the Kivalliq, the JLM will sport 10 teams this year, with six facing-off in an A Division and four competing in a new B Division.
The A Division will see each team play two games in round-robin action before advancing to the playoff round, which will begin with quarter-final action pitting the second-place teams vs. the third-place teams in Pool A and Pool B. The quarter-final winners will then meet the two first-place teams in A Division semifinal action.
B Division teams will compete in a double-knockout elimination round (lose twice and you’re out) to claim championship glory.
The six teams competing in the A Division will play in two pools, with Pool A consisting of Rankin Inlet ‘A’, Team Kivalliq and Whale Cove, and Pool B featuring the hometown Arctic Connection, the Karetakers and Baker Lake.
Vying for the B Division crown will be Team Arviat, the Arviat Legends, the Arviat Kings and Rankin Inlet ‘B’.
Organizer Gleason Uppahuak said he’s excited to roll out a new format he sees as soon being loved by players and fans alike.
He said the B Division playoffs are a bit different than a standard double-elimination format because, once only two teams remain, they will play one winner-take-all game for the championship regardless of team records up until that point.
“We’ve grown quite a bit over the years since the JLM – which is now officially the Calm Air Cup – first started more than a decade ago,” said Uppahuak.
“I know Rankin ‘A’ will be looking to stay on top for another year from the moment they take to the ice.
“All team rosters have been in for a while now and can be found on my Facebook page.
“Every shot, every minute, every shift and every period now matters right from the opening ceremony with this format.”
Uppahuak said Arviat is geared up for this year’s event and the community is rocking with anticipation for the action to begin.
He said continuing to organize the tournament while living in Winnipeg for a few years has, to this point, gone smoothly.
“With today’s technology, putting this year’s JLM together has been just like working back home, with the biggest difference being all of my hockey buddies are back home and I’m down here.
“This year’s paperwork has been a piece of cake because of technology and my love for doing it.
“When I do team placements for a two-pool division, I make sure the first-place team from the previous year goes to Pool A, the second-place team to Pool B, and so on, so that they’re well-balanced with a different look each year.
“I’ve done it that way for the past 10 years and the approach helps keep the tournament fresh.”
Uppahuak said hockey fans are going to see some crazy, intense hockey in the A Division, with each-and-every game a pressure cooker.
He said fans will also see a number of young guns trying to ride speed to success over the crafty and grizzled Arviat Legends – an old-timer’s team built on a mixture of skill and nastiness that has been aged and developed on the Arviat hockey scene for decades.
“The majority of players on the Rankin B team are midget-aged, so I expect the division to be fast, wide-open hockey.
“I still have to take a longer look at how the B Division champs will move up to A Division the following year, and which team would be relegated to B from the A Division.
“There were a few questions on the new format at first, but, once I explained the divisions and how the systems work, players quickly understood and, I think, actually found it to be a bit surprising and pretty exciting.
“In fact, I guarantee you every Kivalliq tournament will move to this format during the next few years.”