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Churchill, Man. hockey tourney worth the 12-hour snowmobile trip for players

Click to play video: 'Churchill, Man. hockey tourney worth the 12-hour snowmobile trip for players' Churchill, Man. hockey tourney worth the 12-hour snowmobile trip for players
For some northern residents, getting to participate in a hockey tournament is well worth a 12-hour snowmobile trek along the coast of Hudson’s Bay. Brittany Greenslade reports. – Mar 18, 2022

The lifting of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions throughout the province means many Manitobans are getting back to the public events they love, from cultural gatherings to hockey tournaments.

For some northern residents, getting to participate in the latter is well worth a 12-hour snowmobile trek along the coast of Hudson’s Bay.

Heather Botelho, organizer of the Walter Lundie Memorial Hockey Tournament in Churchill, Man., told 680 CJOB’s The Start that a team from Arviat, Nunavut, arrived Wednesday night after a lengthy journey.

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“Talking to the group earlier last week and earlier in the month, there was a full moon — and when the full moon happens, it affects the tides and puts water on top of the rivers and bays where they are actually driving,” Botelho said.

“They beat that, so they made it safe and sound last night.”

The unlikely trip to play in an adult recreational tourney was for very good reasons, she said. Trying to fly into Churchill would have required multiple out-of-the-way stops, as well as a $4,500 round-trip price tag for each player.

Plus, Botelho said, it’s a part of regular life in the far north.

Snowmobiles arriving in Churchill, Man. Submitted

“This was part of our lives for generations… these guys who came down on snowmobiles, generations before them, their fathers, their grandfathers were doing it.

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“They’re very smart people, they know what they’re doing, and this is nothing new to them at all.”

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic leaves Churchill’s tourism sector ‘vulnerable’: mayor

The tournament is named for Botelho’s grandfather — born Walter Lundie but best known throughout the region as “Geronimo”, a local hockey star famed for his slapshot.

Getting back to regular action with events like these, she said, is a huge positive for the community.

“It means everything, especially with the (pandemic over the) last two years,” she said.

“We don’t have a huge population here, so bringing in 200 people to play hockey, watch hockey — family and fans follow these players from all over — it’s like one big family reunion in a sense, because there’s connections throughout the community, so it’s a big deal.”

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