Many sports took a break over the holiday season, but the Yukon Arctic Winter Games hockey coaches took it as an opportunity to host the first set of team trials.
The three teams held the first trial Dec. 22-23 allowing players who may be living and playing hockey out of the city to come back and participate.
But having it during the Christmas season also prevented some hopeful players from being able to attend, trial co-ordinator Martin Lawrie said, so another trial was arranged for Jan. 12-14.
“We know there are a number of families on vacation through the Christmas season,” Lawrie said. “We wanted to give everyone an opportunity to attend at least one.”
The trials for each of the three teams are run in three separate sessions and had the players skating twice on the second day in both a morning and afternoon session.
About 30 players attended for the two male teams, said Lawrie who also served as an evaluator for the two teams.
There will be two male teams, of bantam and midget ages, representing the territory at the Games and one junior female team with players born in 1999 or later.
Lawrie said he wasn’t surprised by the rather large number of players because the AWG is an exciting opportunity for young athletes.
He also credited the brand new AWG development programs in both the bantam and midget divisions for getting players involved and playing throughout the year to prepare for the trials.
“What we’re trying to do as Hockey Yukon is try and leverage interest that AWG brings every second year and see if we can build on that,” he said.
The development teams were created as a substitute for the Mustangs programs in those age groups and are open to all players, no matter the experience level, who want a higher level of practices and training.
The bantam team, coached by Carl Burgess, was able to have game experience on home ice, hosting the Bantam International Showdown in early December.
The midget team, coached by Elgin Schwantz, is still practising regularly but didn’t receive enough interest from outside teams to host a similar international tournament.
Both the bantam and midget AWG teams will be coached by the development program coaches, but the players still need to participate in the trials and are on an even playing field with those not in the programs.
At the 2016 Games, there was only one male competition in the bantam division and the Yukon team finished in fifth spot without a win.
On the female side, the Yukon team finished in fourth place narrowly dropping the bronze-medal game to Alaska 2-1.
With the Yukon Rivermen players of eligible age for the bantam team, Lawrie said most of them did attend the first set of trials even though the team will have the B.C. provincial championships at the same time as the Games and likely won’t be able to play.
“It’s a long season and it doesn’t make sense to close the door on their eligibility,” he said. “It’s probably not a possibility for most, but we didn’t want to see any kids not have that opportunity.”
The Rivermen will continue their inaugural season with two back-to-back series’ at home with the first Jan. 27-28 against the North Zone Kings followed by a visit from the Central Zone Rockets Feb. 3-4.
The Rivermen are still looking for their first win at Takhini Arena.
The second set of trials for all three teams will take place Jan. 12-14 with three sessions each split between both Takhini Arena and the Canada Games Centre.