Emotional tourney in Baker Lake

The Salliq (Coral Harbour) Warriors survived a late surge by Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake) and held on for a 9-8 victory in the championship game of the 2024 Sala Hockey Memorial tournament in Baker Lake on April 7.

Salliq defeated the Junior Blizzards 10-3 in one semifinal to advance to the championship game, while Qamani’tuaq defeated Arviat 12-55 in the other semi.

The tournament did not start well for Salliq. The Warriors lost their first two games of the round robin, including being mercied 9-2 by Qamani’tuaq, who they would meet in the final.

Salliq led Qamani’tuaq 8-4 after two periods of the championship game, but the hometown squad closed the gap to 8-7 before Salliq tallied again to make it 9-7 with just over four minutes remaining.

Qamani’tuaq once again made it a one-goal difference with 90 seconds remaining, but could not net the equalizer.

Kevin Legace of Rankin Inlet was asked to suit up with Salliq in the tournament.

Legace said the games were very well attended.

He said it was his first time to play in Baker Lake and it left a lasting impression on him.

“The crowds were loud and crazy,” Legace said, laughing.

“It was really loud every game and they did a really good job with the ice.

“The kids there just love hockey. You leave the arena and every kid is cheering you. It’s really something quite special.

“Everyone involved in the tournament in memory of Sala Hockey did a great job.”

Sala Hockey was the nickname of Solomon Tulurialik, who was an immensely popular figure in Baker Lake. Tragically, Tulurialik drowned during the summer of 2019.

The Inlanders Cup tournament had its name changed to the Sala Hockey Memorial in honour of Tulurialik’s memory.

The 2023 champion Rankin Inlet team did not defend its title this year, due to the Rankin to Whale Cove race being held the same weekend.

This year’s Sala Hockey Memorial also had emotional ties to players on the Salliq team.

Legace and Jon Gibbons played together on the winning team of the 2019 Jon Lindell Memorial tourney in Arviat.

Legace said he and Gibbons recently lost their best buddy, Steven Panika, and dedicated this year’s Sala Hockey Memorial to his memory.

He said they wanted nothing more than to win the tournament and honour their friend.

“Jon and I kept talking about Steven in the dressing room and on the bench, saying, ‘Let’s go’ to the other guys to win it for him.

“For me and Jon Gibbons, that win was for Steven. I had played on a championship team with Steven once. He was a champion and he really deserved this win in his memory.

“I can’t thank all the Coral players enough for helping us win in Steven’s memory. It meant the world to us.”

Darrell Greer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kivalliq News