The Good Sport: Nunavut hockey team makes history at Canada Winter Games

Yahoo Canada Sports
On the left, some members of the Irish Flying Ducks hockey team pose for a photo on in-line skates, while Nunavut male hockey players celebrate their performance at the Canada Winter Games in Alberta. Photos from Aisling Daly via CBC News and Hunter Tootoo via Twitter.
On the left, some members of the Irish Flying Ducks hockey team pose for a photo on in-line skates, while Nunavut male hockey players celebrate their performance at the Canada Winter Games in Alberta. Photos from Aisling Daly via CBC News and Hunter Tootoo via Twitter.

The news can be depressing at times. Thankfully, the sports world usually isn’t.

Yahoo Sports is taking a weekly look at the true spirit of sport — the highlights that will warm your heart and the acts of kindness that go beyond the game.

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Come on. Let’s take a load off together.

Nunavut sends hockey team to event for first time

They say you’ll always remember your first time, which means some male hockey players from Nunavut will remember this past week with pride.

For the first time ever, Nunavut will be represented in hockey at the Canada Winter Games, which are being held in Red Deer, Alta., from Feb. 15 to March 3.

Some of the biggest names in hockey have played at the Games, including Sidney Crosby, Paul Kariya, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Hayley Wickenheiser.

Nunavut entered the tournament as the 13th seed and Leo Kaludjak was listed as a player to watch. The team that never appeared at the Games before found a way to win their first game of the tournament against Yukon by a score of 5-3.

“It means so much to me,” team captain Max Joy told Global News. “Coming from Iqaluit, living there my whole life, it’s just so incredible to be here.”

In the lead-up to the tournament the team held a three-day training camp in Ottawa, including ice-time with former Senators Chris Neil and Chris Phillips as honorary coaches.

“That is the best team game I’ve ever seen a bunch of kids from the middle of nowhere play in my entire life,” head Nunavut hockey coach Martin Joy said.

And if you think that statement is impressive, consider this: many of the boys, as athletic as they are, have “never even seen an NHL game,” captain Max Joy revealed to CBC.

Nunavut finished their preliminaries with a 1-3 record and managed to avoid finishing in last place. They even got the attention of MP Hunter Tootoo, who sent out a congratulatory tweet to salute the squad for their big win. Keep making us proud, Nunavut!

Teen overcomes surgeries to compete in gymnastics

Maggie Carson was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour in December 2016. She has endured two surgeries since then, but that didn’t stop her from training and competing in the sport she loves — artistic gymnastics.

“Doctors found a brain tumour. When I think about it, it kind of scares me. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t tell them how I was feeling,” Carson told HipCheck Media, reporting for Canada Games.

Through her treatments and recovery process, Carson continued to progress in gymnastics. The 14-year-old athlete qualified for the 2019 Canada Winter Games and chosen to be the flag bearer for the Northwest Territories during the opening ceremonies in Red Deer, Alta.

“She shows tremendous courage and strength all of the time and motivates and inspires other athletes, coaches and community members around her more than she realizes,” her gymnastics coach John Tram told My Yellowknife Now. “Everyone is really proud of Maggie, after all the challenges she has endured over the past two years, as well as qualifying for the Canada Winter Games.”

Canada helps grow sport of hockey overseas

Ice hockey isn’t the most popular sport in the Republic of Ireland. In fact, the country isn’t even in the world rankings for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) despite the fact that countries such as Turkmenistan and Kuwait both cracked the top 50 list on the men’s side.

Ireland may not get mentioned often in hockey circles, but there’s interest among the country’s youth population.

“I suppose ice hockey is perfectly suited to Irish people,” Aisling Daly, president of the Flying Ducks ice hockey club, told CBC News. “We’ve got a lot of contact sports here.”

The Irish team practices on in-line skates for most of the year because they have to rely on seasonal rinks to be available for them to play on ice. Their former permanent home rink, the Dundalk Ice Dome, closed in 2010.

This photo shows the Irish  <span>Flying Ducks ice hockey club, a team that</span>  spends most of the year competing on in-line skates because they lack a permanent, year-round home to play on the ice. Photo from Aisling Daly via CBC News.
This photo shows the Irish  <span>Flying Ducks ice hockey club, a team that</span>  spends most of the year competing on in-line skates because they lack a permanent, year-round home to play on the ice. Photo from Aisling Daly via CBC News.

Enter Kevin Murphy, a Canadian from the Irish Societies of Montreal. Upon hearing about Ireland’s love of hockey, he reached out to the squad in 2016 to see if they’d like to be a part of Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, according to Good News Network.

While in Canada, the squad had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about their situation. And shortly thereafter, the leader of a country with 3,300 indoor and 5,000 ice hockey rinks decided to do something about it.

During his next visit to Ireland to chat about trade agreements, he brought up his conversations with members of the Irish hockey team, and his words didn’t fall on deaf ears.

While lawyers are still figuring out the final paperwork, funding has been secured for a new ice rink that will be placed at the same spot as the old arena that was closed in 2010. If things go as planned, they hope to open by the end of this summer.

“It is fantastic news that the Flying Ducks and the Irish people will finally have a rink to call their own,” Trudeau told CBC News earlier this month.

Young fan lands quite the Valentine at Maple Leafs game

Imagine being a young hockey fan and getting a chance to see your hero in person.

Now imagine that hero actually noticing the sign you took time to make and seeing your dreams come true.

That’s what happened last week when the Toronto Maple Leafs were visiting T-Mobile Arena to square off against the Vegas Golden Knights. The hockey game was on Valentine’s Day, and a young girl had a sign addressed to Leafs forward Mitch Marner that read: “Hey Mitch! Be my Valentine?”

Marner noticed the sign during warmups and skated over to the girl located in the first row behind the glass. The 21-year-old hockey player gestured to the girl’s mother for a photo, and a magical moment was born.

This isn’t the first time that Marner has made a young fan’s day. Less than two weeks before this kind gesture, he gave a signed stick to a young cancer survivor in Toronto.

Group plays baseball in dead of frigid Alberta winter

Canadians are used to the cold, but this next story might be pushing it too far.

With the temperature sitting at a spine-tingling -24 degrees C in Leduc, Alta., a group decided it was the perfect time to play baseball outside. While it’s true that spring training has started for many MLB teams, they are playing in Arizona and Florida — not Alberta.

Plus, playing a sport that doesn’t always require much movement can be a painful experience if your limbs are cold. Winter activities can be fun, but is it even possible to field a ground ball when it gets stuck in the snow? Regardless, this squad appears committed to playing sports in any weather.

This photo shows a group of athletes playing a snow-filled game of baseball in Leduc, Alta. The image was posted on Reddit on Monday. Photo from&nbsp; &lt;a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/Torontobluejays/comments/art3hc/they_were_playing_baseball_in_leduc_just_outside/?sort=new"&gt;Reddit&lt;/a&gt; .
This photo shows a group of athletes playing a snow-filled game of baseball in Leduc, Alta. The image was posted on Reddit on Monday. Photo from  <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/Torontobluejays/comments/art3hc/they_were_playing_baseball_in_leduc_just_outside/?sort=new">Reddit</a> .

Well, now that we have those warm and fuzzy stories out of the way, let’s go back to digesting Manny Machado’s US$300-million deal with the San Diego Padres, seeing what’s new with the Ball family and attempting to understand that lightsaber dueling has been recognized as a sport in France, shall we?

Do you have any acts of sportsmanship you want to share from your community? Big or small, we’ll take it all! Let us know in the comments below.

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