The Northwest Territories’ junior curlers may not have placed on the podium at the Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships last month, but they came home with several awards just the same.
Team McKay-Saturnino and Team Miller, both teams from Inuvik representing the NWT, were in Liverpool, NS this year for the championships held at the end of January.
Three of the NWT curlers were singled out at the championships to receive Fair Play awards, a huge testament to the quality of curling played in the NWT, according to their coaches.
“It just shows that we have our priorities straight for why we are there,” Nick Saturnino, coach of the junior women’s team from Inuvik, told The Journal.
“Of course we want to win and do our best, but at the end of the day it’s an experience that the kids will have for the rest of their lives,” he said.
From the junior women’s team, team lead Hilary Charlie and skip Carina McKay-Saturnino both received a Fair Play award. Deklen Crocker, the lead from the NWT’s junior men’s team, was also honoured with a Fair Play award.
“It speaks well for the athletes that we are producing out of the NWT,” junior men’s coach Maureen Miller said.
Over the week of national competition, both NWT teams put up a challenge in every match. The women’s team won two of their nine games, and lost to both Alberta and BC, the first and second ranked teams, respectively, by only two points.
The NWT men’s team took on the notoriously strong Albertans right off the bat and kept up a close game before a few key misses lost them the game. Later on in the competition, the team lost their skip, Matthew Miller, to health concerns and was forced to shuffle the team and add a spare.
“That always makes it a little tougher, although the third stepped up and did an incredible job, but it just means everybody is playing a little out of their comfort zone,” the coach said.
They may not have won the championships, but Miller said the team is still feeling triumphant after their “Polar Challenge” win.
“It’s a little bit tongue and cheek, but the three territories all play each other and we beat both of the other territories so we say we won the ‘Polar Challenge,’” she explained with a laugh.
Saturnino wins coaching award
Nick Saturnino has been coaching the Inuvik curling club juniors for seven years now, and his dedication and experience also turned heads in Nova Scotia.
The NWT coach was selected for the women’s team coaching award at the championships, selected by a vote among the other coaches.
“It was a great honour,” Saturnino told The Journal. “I was kind of shocked that I won it.”
Curling coaches are often hard to find for youth in the NWT, he said, which often accounts for the lack of growth in the sport.
Not only are the coaches volunteers, but they often have to travel to coach players scattered across the territory. Miller’s junior men’s team had a player from Yellowknife and Inuvik and two players who were at universities in the south.
“We had to maximize the times we had together so it just makes it a little more difficult to coach,” she said.
Saturnino said he hopes NWT parents see the value of coaching their own children and are encouraged to volunteer.