An 11-year-old boy from Nunavut entered the U20 Arctic Winter Games hockey team. it wasn’t easy

Like many 11-year-olds confronted by a TV camera, Jordyn Machmer leaves most of the talking to his father.

“You have to have a goal, and he had that goal and he achieved it and worked hard for it,” said David Kilabuk of his daughter, the youngest player on Team Nunavut’s U20 women’s hockey team at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG). .

But while on the ice, Jordyn takes control.

“There were many hours when he did things on his own,” Kilabuk said. “And he’s working on his own every day, so I don’t have to tell him do this or that.”

Being a hockey player isn’t easy in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a community of less than 1,500 on Baffin Island.

Outdoor skating on a makeshift rink in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. (Posted by David Kilabuk)

There is no artificial ice in the neighborhood. Every year, Kilabuk builds an outdoor rink for Jordyn to train on, at least until the ice forms in the community arena in January.

“It does a lot of stuff behind our house – it shoots – and it collects garbage inside the house as well.”

Jordyn’s mother, Sheena Machmer, took her daughter to the AWG audition in November 2022 to gain more hockey skills and game knowledge without waiting for her selection.

But he remembers the time when the team’s coach, Jamie Savikataaq, said the names of the players that entered the team. “Oh, I thought he didn’t make it, but then he said, ‘and the team’s baby Jordyn Machmer!”

“I was really a little shocked and didn’t know what to say or how to feel in the locker room.”

Girl in bright hockey gear in locker room.
Jordyn in Nunavut Arctic Winter Games Team hockey gear. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

“It was fun,” Jordyn told CBC News about a month after she was named to Nunavut’s only women’s hockey team to send to the Games.

Savikataaq has stared at Jordyn since he first saw him play hockey at Toonik Tyme, the annual spring festival in Iqaluit in April 2019.

At age 11, Savikataaq invited the 5’3″, 110-pound forward to the AWG selection camp.

“His talent, determination and dedication to the game is something I haven’t seen in a long time. So he definitely caught our attention with everything he did.”

The man in blue on hockey boards.
Jamie Savikataaq coaches Team Nunavut’s U20 women’s hockey team. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

The girl is in the hockey arena.
Team captain Maddy Savikataaq. “Honestly, he’s very talented…you can’t tell the difference in age on ice.” (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Nunavut goalkeeper Cassiar Cousins, 17, said he did not expect Jordyn to be this young. “Because she looks 13 years old, not 11, and when she found out that the group had a baby, it was so stressful to make sure she was okay, ate and looked after.”

“It’s a little scary at first because he’s so much smaller than we are,” said 19-year-old Team Nunavut captain Maddy Savikataaq. “But honestly, he’s so talented and so good at what he does that you can’t tell the difference between age on ice.”

‘it surprises me’

Jordyn has been auditioning since the previous spring without slipping inside, but still managed to score a few goals.

“It surprises me,” said her mother, Sheena.

Sheena said Jordyn has always been interested in hockey and loves NHL Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid. His two older brothers also play the game and he passed on this competitiveness to him.

A family of nine at a hockey arena.
Jordyn, far right, in a family photo. His father is by his side and his mother, Sheena, is holding a young boy. The whole family wants to see Jordyn succeed. (Presented by Sheena Machmer)

But this is unusual at Pangnirtung, where challenges include a lack of interest in hockey. Only a few players join Jordyn on the ice during the short ice season.

Late starts in the arena, lack of sports programs and high cost of sports equipment – ​​Kilabuk says more dollars are needed for kids to be active in Nunavut.

“We can’t register players in the fall like other communities do. [Hockey Nunavut] We’re not on the radar with Hockey Nunavut until after January and when it comes to coaching clinics or referee clinics, so we’re a little late for everything because our arena opens so late,” said Kilabuk.

“If we had artificial ice, it would be a different story.”

Pang to Fort McMurray

Kilabuk said Jordyn started playing hockey at home, then switched to ice at the age of three or four.

He remembers the first time he saw his skateboard.

“She’s always been a bit of a nervous young lady since she was little, and the first time I saw her slip, I said something like: Wow!”

“But the first thing I thought when he started playing was that he should go to Team Canada.”

Team meeting with coaches.
Team Nunavut on the ice in their Arctic Winter Games uniforms. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Jordyn played his first tournament at the age of seven or eight, scoring 17 goals in 5 games. Kilabuk said he scored 30 goals the following year – Jordyn immediately followed suit with “31!”

Kilabuk said he was a little emotional when he watched him hit the ice for the first time in a game against the Northwest Territories on Monday.

“His older brother also played three times in AWG,” Kilabuk said. “It brought back a lot of memories and now it has its own memories too, so that’s great.”

During that match, Jordyn said she felt nervous. “Still good.”

A minor hockey player among the three big hockey players.
The pink helmeted Jordyn is known as the ‘baby’ of the team. (Posted by David Kilabuk)

Jordyn’s mother, Sheena, organized fundraising events to help cover Kilabuk’s journey from Pangnirtung to Fort McMurray.

It was important to them that at least one parent attend the Arctic Winter Games with their daughter.

“I think he’ll do well,” Sheena said. “I’m not worried about him. I know he’s come a long way and has grown a lot in the past month playing with older kids.”

Support for Jordyn

In these games at Fort McMurray, the U20 team played hard but lost all four games.

Sheena said the family is proud and grateful for all the support Jordyn has received from her friends, school and community.

Kilabuk said kids at school in Pangnirtung watched one of Jordyn’s matches on AWG’s livestream earlier this week.

“A lot of kids model his house, so this might just help other players.”

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