Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

SUPER SABRE – Buffalo Sabres centre Dylan Cozens in May 2020 in Whitehorse. Cozens won silver at the World Junior Championships in Edmonton in January.

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Photo by Photo Submitted

RACING IN THE RAIN – Jessica Frotten competes in the women’s 400m T53 final at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sept. 2. Frotten finished eighth in the event. Photo by DAVE HOLLAND

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

FANTASTIC FINISH – Hans Gatt on the trail on his way to a first-place finish in the Yukon Journey in February. Gatt finished three minutes ahead of Ed Hopkins.

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Photo by Photo Submitted

GIRL POWER – Hazel Hogan, 7, carries the puck up the ice during the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 17. The Whitehorse female minor hockey program achieved a major milestone this season. Photo courtesy Stephen Anderson-Lindsay

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Photo by Photo Submitted

SKIING IN SLOVENIA – Dahria Beatty skiing in the snow at the World Cup in Planica, Slovenia in December, 2019. Photos courtesy NORDICFOCUS

The year of COVID: Top 10 local sports stories of 2021

2021 was a year like no other, as every aspect of our lives was touched by COVID-19, including the sports world.

By Whitehorse Star on December 24, 2021

2021 was a year like no other, as every aspect of our lives was touched by COVID-19, including the sports world. No matter the sport, COVID was part of the story, if not a major part. Here are the top 10 local sports stories of 2021:

1) Dylan Cozens wins silver at World Juniors

Whitehorse native Dylan Cozens had an outstanding 2021 World Junior tournament, leading Canada in scoring and finishing second overall with 16 points (8 goals, 8 assists, +11). It wasn’t enough, as Team Canada had to settle for silver following a 2-0 loss to the U.S. in the gold medal game. That game, like all of the 28 contests, was played in an empty Rogers Place in Edmonton because of COVID restrictions.

The 20-year-old centre was named a team co-captain after Kirby Dach suffered an injury. He was nicknamed the “Workhorse from Whitehorse” by TSN announcer Gord Miller during the tourney. He was also named one of Canada’s top three players in the tournament. Cozens previously won gold in 2020 at the World Juniors in the Czech Republic, tallying two goals and seven assists for nine points.

Cozens is in his second season in the NHL and has already reached a career-high in points with 15 (8G, 7A) in 30 games.

2) Yukon Journey replaces Yukon Quest

Hans Gatt won the Yukon Journey, a 255-mile race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse, which replaced the legendary Yukon Quest 1000-mile endurance race. Gatt finished three minutes ahead of Ed Hopkins on Feb. 26, 2021.

The Quest was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted mushers to take matters into their own hands by organizing the Yukon Journey.

One of the unique features of the Journey was that mushers were required to take 20 hours of mandatory rest between the start and finish. This gave them and their dogs a lot of rest, which Gatt said was the whole idea of the musher-conceived race.

According to Gatt, the Journey was “a lot more fun than a 1,000-mile race”.

Next year, the Quest is running 100 and 300 mile races on the Yukon side starting on February 19, 2022. On the Alaskan side, 200 and 550 mile races are off and running on February 5, 2022.

3) Yukon River Quest cancelled; replaced by Race to the Klondyke

The Yukon River Quest was cancelled on June 22 due to Yukon River flooding conditions, a day before the scheduled start.

It was replaced by the Race to the Klondyke , which was scheduled to run Aug. 14-16, and went from Carmacks to Dawson.

Unfortunately, only a few paddlers finished the Race to the Klondyke.

Steve Ramsay of Foothills, Alta. and Crispin Studer of Whitehorse crossed the finish line on the Yukon River in Dawson in their tandem canoe at 10:10 p.m. on the evening of Aug. 15, concluding their 393.7 kilometre trip from Carmacks. The Class of 71 team cruised in well ahead of the other two entries.

The other teams were Love of Paddling, a mixed Whitehorse team of Margo Millette and Brian Groves, also in a tandem canoe; and Team Lonely Wolf, a solo canoe paddled by Jake Paleczny, also of Whitehorse.

The 2022 Yukon River Quest is scheduled to run June 22-25.

4) ‘Kinda Klondike’ Road Relay held separately on both sides of the border

The “Kinda Klondike Road Relay” race took place on Sept. 11. There were many changes due to COVID-19 restrictions. The key difference in the race was the starting point, Leg 6 at the B.C. – Yukon border. Canadians ran towards Whitehorse, while Americans ran to Skagway. Each side ran five legs instead of the usual 10. It was a one day race, whereas it usually goes overnight.

Here are the race results with winners in each category and their winning times:

• 8 Person Youth:
Blue Past You 5:12:08

• 8 Person Walkers:
Just Like That 10:33:26

• 4 Person Walkers:
Chocolate Claim 8:24:51

• 5 Person Women:
TBD 7:43:42

• 5 Person Men:
The Old Guys 7:32:04

• 5 Person Mixed – Male:
Endurance North 7:02:59

• 5 Person Mixed – Female:
Takhini Houdini 8:17:09

• 5 Person Mixed:
Velvet Thunder 7:45:11

Velvet Thunder also won for Best Costumes.

5) Jessica Frotten competes in Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Whitehorse native Jessica Frotten participated in her first Paralympics in Tokyo 2020, which actually took place in late August/early September 2021.

Frotten competed in the T53 400 and 800 metre races, T54 1500 metre race, and the Universal 4x100 metre relay.

She finished 8th in the T53 400 metre finals, and her four-person team finished third in Heat 3 of the universal relay, but didn’t move on to the finals.

“My Paralympic experience was incredible,” Frotten said enthusiastically. “Unfortunately, COVID did make it a little strange, but it was everything I have dreamed of. I mean, being a part of Team Canada, going to represent Canada, it was a dream come true.”

Also of note, Whitehorse’s Stephanie Dixon was the chef de mission of the Canadian Paralympic team.

Canada was represented by 128 athletes, including guides, at the Games, who competed in 18 Paralympic sports in Tokyo. The team left Tokyo with 21 medals (five gold, 10 silver, and six bronze).

6) Whitehorse puts in bid for the 2027 Canada Winter Games

The City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government, along with the Canada Games Council, formally announced they were jointly bidding for the 2027 Canada Winter Games on Sept. 22 in the Grey Mountain Room at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

The Games are the largest amateur multi-sport event in Canada. Whitehorse previously hosted the 2007 event.

The announcement was the start of a 13-month process to win the right to host the Games.

Several dignitaries attended the event, including Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, Peter Johnston, the grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, and some members of city council, with most delivering speeches.

Piers McDonald, the 2027 Canada Winter Games Bid Committee chair, talked about the chances of Whitehorse hosting the Games.

“Very high,” said McDonald. “But there are some big challenges. We have fundraising challenges. We have to get sponsorship. The target for sponsorship is about $11 million. So it’s a much larger project than the Arctic Winter Games … it’s doable. We’ve done if before. But it is daunting. It’s one of the more challenging tasks.”

“I’m confident that we can find ways of making ourselves attractive to national sponsors.”

The bid will be assessed in two phases. A technical review will take place in February 2022, followed by a comprehensive review in October 2022. The Games will be awarded in November 2022.

7) 2021 Curling Wrap: Team Eby narrowly edged out for bronze at the Canadian Curling Club Championships

Yukon’s Team Eby narrowly missed out on a bronze medal at the 2021 Everest Canadian Curling Club Championships, edged out by Nova Scotia 5-3. They finished the Championships at 5-5.

Two Yukon teams competed in the Championships, which ran from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club.

The women’s team was skipped by Laura Eby, with Lorna Spenner, third, Tamar Vandenberghe, second and Laura Williamson, at lead, rounding out the foursome.

Eby won the women’s MVP award at the tournament, but deflected praise from herself.

“I am so very proud of my team. There’s not one person out there. There’s four. Even though the skip gets named at all these events, it’s a four-person team that made it happen.”

The men’s team, skipped by Dustin Mikkelsen, went 1-5 in their Championships.

After the Clubs, two Yukon teams competed in the Everest Canadian Senior Championships in Sault Ste. Marie from Dec. 6 to Dec. 11.

The ladies team was skipped by Rhonda Horte. The third was Helen Strong, the second Laura Wilson, and Corinne Delaire was throwing lead rocks.

The Horte rink advanced to the Championship Pool with a 3-3 record, but failed to win a game after that, despite playing very competitively.

The men, skipped by Terry Miller, included third Herb Balsam, second Doug Hamilton, and lead Don McPhee. The men’s team failed to advance to the Championship round, finishing 2-7.

Team Yukon had also played at the Canadian Mixed Curling Championships in Canmore, Alta. from Nov. 7-14, finishing with a 3-6 record, but finished strongly in the seeding round for next year’s championships.

The team from Whitehorse was skipped by Terry Miller. Laini Klassen was the third, her son Brayden Klassen was shooting second stones, and Laini’s sister Shani rounded out the team in the lead position.

The Yukon playdowns for the Brier and Scotties are coming up Jan. 6-9 at the Whitehorse Curling Club.

8) Female minor hockey sees record registration in 2021

The female hockey program hit a significant milestone this season.

“It happened this fall,” recalled Pat Tobler, Director-at Large for Whitehorse Minor Hockey. “We got 107 girls signed up for Whitehorse Minor Hockey, which represents over 22 per cent of the registration for minor hockey. That, by all accounts, seems to be a new record. It’s especially prevalent in the younger age groups.”

According to the VP for the Female Programs, Dan Johnson, they want to get a high number of girls to continue in the older programs, and that is starting to happen now.

“The five to nine-year-olds that we have right now that are at these ice times, I’d like to see how we could keep somewhere near those numbers as we get through U13, U15, U18. I think that’s the biggest challenge and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of providing a really good environment for them,” said Johnson.

Tobler added “providing female-only teams and even exhibition games is just so important for the girls to shine.”

Female minor hockey coach Tyler Plaunt added “we have a lot of fun at the barn, and just want to keep it going and keep on making it fun for the girls, as long as they’ll have us, and hopefully we keep picking up some female coaches along the way. Everything’s trending positive.”

The female hockey program is paying dividends. The Yukon U15 girls’ team competed hard in a rep tourney in Summerland, B.C. Dec. 10-12. Despite being underaged and undersized (with many U13 players on the team), and losing a few games, they managed to knock off a powerful Kamloops team 5-4 along the way and came home with their heads held high.

9) Whitehorse archers win Premier’s Award of Sport Excellence; set Canadian records

Five members of the Yukon Aboriginal Sports Circle archery team were named as recipients of the 2020 Yukon Premier’s Award of Sport Excellence in 2021. Delia Therriault set a Canadian record in Pre-Cub Barebow in the Multi-Sites Indoor Championships of the Americas (MICA) on Dec. 16, 2020 as a 12-year-old.

“I didn’t think I would get this far this fast. I’m really happy I did. It feels good. I’m happy I got this far,” Therriault said of the award.

Emmet Kapaniuk also set a Canadian record during the MICA event as a Cub in the crossbow competition. He has won multiple gold medals in crossbow as well. “It’s always great to be recognized for Team Yukon,” Kapaniuk said. “You put in the work and … you get rewarded for all your hard work. It just feels good,” he added.

In addition, Kapaniuk was awarded $2,500 in funding from the Yukon Lottery Commission and Sport Canada this year.

The other three award-winning members of the Yukon Aboriginal Sports Circle archery team were Gabriela Browning, Kemper Murray and Mitchell Rudolph.

10) Dahria Beatty named International Female Athlete of the Year; ties personal best finish in World Cup race

On March 4, 2021, Sport Yukon named Beatty 2020 International Female Athlete of the Year. On March 14, she celebrated her award with a personal-best-tying 15th-place finish in the women’s 30 kilometre pursuit race in a time of 1:30:15.2 at the last World Cup event of the season. In fact, Beatty climbed up five spots after her 21.5-kilometre split time.

“I’m definitely looking forward to racing distance events,” said Beatty. “I had my best ever distance results the very last race of last season where I finished 15th in the World Cup in Engadin (Valley), Switzerland, so I’m hoping to carry some of that momentum and confidence that I got in my distance racing last year into this season.”

Beatty’s best individual results so far this season have been a 13th in the FIS 1.5-kilometre Sprint and a 12th in the FIS 10-kilometre Classic at Gaala, Norway Nov. 27-28.

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