Atiqtalaaq “Q” Uuttuvak | Photo By: Anita Uuttuvak
Atiqtalaaq “Q” Uuttuvak, a nine-year-old hockey phenom from Pond Inlet – cloaked in his team jersey from 2015, the Rushforth Selects – is hoping to play in Europe this summer with an elite national team.
A tiny person on skates hurtles through the middle of the ice, gliding with the puck to the left hand side, past the blue line. Two defenders and a goalie stand between him and the net. He toe drags the puck around one defenceman. He does the same around the second one, making the two defenders collide. “Oh my god!” a hysterical woman in the stands shouts. Now it’s just him in front of the goalie. He shifts the puck to his left and slides it between the goalie’s legs – five-hole. “Yea! Ha-ha-ha … awesome!” the woman yells as the crowd cheers.
That’s just one of many sweet goals nine-year-old Pond Inlet-native Atiqtalaaq “Q” Uuttuvak has scored this past season. He’s notched 29 points in 27 games playing for the Ottawa Sting Minor Atom A. Q’s mother, Anita Uuttuvak, posted a video of that goal to Facebook and YouTube, but she has no idea who that screaming fan was. But that’s normal. People in the stands are always telling her how good her son is. “We get strangers come up to us and say those sorts of things and we don’t know who they are,” Uuttuvak said. In fact, Q is so good at hockey that he’s been invited to play in Europe for a Canadian elite team this summer – a year above his age group – in Hungary and the Czech Republic. He’s also invited to another tournament in Russia in his own age bracket. “He’s especially ecstatic about Russia because it’s kind of like going to a different North,” Uuttuvak said. These aren’t your average tournaments either. Hockey coaches select players based on years of scouting. “He was so proud. Even if he doesn’t get to go, the invite was a big dream of his,” Uuttuvak said. Dream is the operative word there. Uuttuvak is a student at the University of Ottawa, and a single mother of two kids. And it costs thousands of dollars to fly to Europe, money that Uuttuvak just doesn’t have. So Q might not go.
Last year Uuttuvak successfully raised enough money for Q to go to a similar tournament in Europe. The team went to the final and lost. Q thinks he scored in the final but you’ll have to forgive him if his memory is a little hazy on that game. He scores all the time. “Yeah, I think so … yeah, I did,” Q said from his Ottawa home. “The Austrian team used a lot of body contact, and hits from behind,” his mom said. “It was definitely a learning curve for us.” Q says he’s better this year though. “Before, I wasn’t as fast as I was and I didn’t use my speed a lot. I’m using my speed plus the body,” Q said. So Uuttuvak set up new fundraising sites so she can see her son speed past those Europeans again this year, in July and August.
More and more Inuit have turned to crowdfunding sites to pay for a wide array of things including school trips and medical expenses. But Uuttuvak is looking for Aeroplan miles donations — her goal: 300,000 miles so she and Q’s brother can accompany him. They’ve already received 236,094 miles, so they’re still short of their target. Uuttuvak’s also hoping to raise $20,000 in cash — or a minimum of $15,000 — but she’s only received $350 in donations so far. That money will go towards hotels, bus travel, tournament fees, bookings and surcharges.
Uuttuvak said if she doesn’t hit those targets, she’ll look into giving Aeroplan points back, or ask for the miles to go towards tickets to take Q to the Nunavut Stars Hockey Camp in Iqaluit. “I don’t want people to think I’m taking advantage of their donations for a different cause,” Uuttuvak said. But if they were to go to Europe, they’d be ambassadors for Nunavut, she said. “I know it’s a lot of money to be asking for and people have their own dreams and goals. “I just want to say thank you to them. And we try to advocate for Nunavut wherever we go and promote it,” Uuttuvak said.
Q understands that he might not get to Europe this year, but he says he wants to go a lot — “like, out of this world,” he said. “I love you Nunavut,” he said, thanking everybody in advance for the generosity before handing the phone back to his mother, at home in Ottawa. “He just came in from playing hockey outside. My cell phone is covered in sweat now,” Uuttuvak said.
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