An 11-year-old from Nunavut formed his under-20 ice hockey team for the Arctic Winter Games. It was’nt easy

Like many 11-year-olds faced with a TV camera, Jordyn Machmer lets her father do most of the talking.

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

But when she’s on the ice, Jordyn takes charge.

“There were a lot of hours where she was doing things by herself,” Kilabuk said. “And she works out by herself every day, I don’t have to tell her to do this or that.”

It’s not easy being a hockey player in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a community of fewer than 1,500 people on Baffin Island.

Girl on backyard ice cream under full moon.
Ice skating outdoors at a makeshift ice rink in Pangnirtung, Nunavut. (Submitted by David Kilabuk)

There is no artificial ice in the municipality. Each year, Kilabuk builds an outdoor ice rink for Jordyn to practice on, at least until the ice is formed at the community arena in January.

“She does a lot of stuff behind our house – shooting – and also in the house with racquets.”

Jordyn’s mother, Sheena Machmer, took her daughter to the AWG Tryouts in November 2022 to gain more hockey skills and knowledge of the game without expecting her to be selected.

But she remembers when Jamie Savikataaq, the team’s coach, called out the names of the players who made the team. “I was like, oh, she didn’t make it, but then he said, ‘and the team’s baby, Jordyn Machmer!'”

She said: “I was really shocked and didn’t know what to say or what to feel in the dressing room.”

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

“It was fun,” Jordyn told CBC News nearly a month after she was selected for the only female hockey team Nunavut sent to games.

Savikataaq had had her eye on Jordyn since she first saw her play hockey at Toonik Tyme – the annual spring festival in Iqaluit – in April 2019. She was only eight years old.

When she was 11, Savikataaq invited the 5’3″, 110-pound forward to the AWG selection camp.

“It’s been a long time since I saw their skill, determination and dedication to the game. So she’s got our attention with everything she does.”

Man in blue at the hockey boards.
Jamie Savikataaq coaches Team Nunavut’s under-20 women’s ice hockey team. (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Girls in the hockey arena.
Team Captain Maddy Savikataaq. “Honestly, she’s so talented… you couldn’t tell an age difference on the ice.” (Juanita Taylor/CBC)

Team Nunavut goaltender Cassiar Cousins, 17, said she didn’t expect Jordyn to be so young. “Because she looks like 13 and not 11 and found out she’s the baby of the group, making sure she’s okay, eating and cared for has been so stressful.”

“It’s a bit scary at first because she’s a lot smaller than us,” said 19-year-old Team Nunavut captain Maddy Savikataaq. “But honestly, she’s so talented and she’s so good at what she does that you couldn’t tell an age difference on the ice.”

“She Amazes Me”

Jordyn went to the tryouts without having run indoors since last spring but still managed to score a couple of goals.

“She amazes me,” said Sheena, her mother.

Sheena said Jordyn has always been interested in hockey and loves NHL Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid. Her two older brothers also play the game and have passed that competitiveness on to them.

Family of nine in a hockey arena.
Jordyn at far right in a family photo. Her father is next to her and her mother, Sheena, who is holding a little boy. The whole family wants Jordyn to be successful. (Submitted by Sheena Machmer)

But that’s unusual in Pangnirtung, where challenges include a lack of interest in hockey. Only a handful of players join Jordyn on the ice during the short ice season.

The late start to the arena, the lack of sports programs and the high cost of sports equipment — Kilabuk says more dollars are needed to get kids in Nunavut active.

“We cannot register our players in the fall like other communities do [Hockey Nunavut] until after January, and then we’re not on the radar with Hockey Nunavut as far as coaching clinics or umpire clinics, so we’re a little late for everything because our arena opens late,” Kilabuk said.

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

From Pang to Fort McMurray

Kilabuk said Jordyn started playing hockey at home and then took to the ice around the age of three or four.

He remembers the first time he saw her skating.

“She’s always been a bit of an intense young lady since she was very little, and when I first saw her I was like, ‘Whoa!'”

He added: “But the first thing I thought of when she started playing was that she should go to Team Canada.”

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

Jordyn played her first tournament at the age of seven or eight, where she scored 17 goals in five games. The next year, Kilabuk said, she scored 30 goals — to which Jordyn was quick to correct him: “31!”

Kilabuk said he got a little emotional when he saw her take to the ice for the first time in a game against the Northwest Territories on Monday.

“Her older brother also played three times in the AWG,” Kilabuk said. “Bringed back a lot of memories and she has her own memories now too so that’s great.”

At this game, Jordyn said she was nervous. “It was okay though.”

Little ice hockey player in the middle of three bigger ones.
Jordyn with the pink helmet was dubbed the “baby” of the team. (Submitted by David Kilabuk)

Sheena, Jordyn’s mother, held fundraisers to pay for Kilabuk’s trip from Pangnirtung to Fort McMurray.

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

“I think she’ll do fine,” Sheena said. “I’m not worried about her. I know she has come a long way and has grown a lot playing with older children in the last month alone.”

Support for Jordan

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

Sheena said she is proud and grateful for all the support the family is receiving from Jordyn’s friends, her school and the community.

Kilabuk said the children at the Pangnirtung school saw one of Jordyn’s games on the AWG live feed earlier this week.

“A lot of kids look up to her at home, so that can only help other players.”

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