Monday, 13 May 2019

Three Medals?

It's rare that one team can medal twice in the same event. I've seen two teams from the same club or country win medals in the same event, but never the same team winning two medals. If you take a glance at the lede image, you'll see that Manitoba won a bronze medal, a silver medal, and a gold medal despite entering just one men's team and one women's team at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship taking place in Whitehorse, Yukon. How is this possible, you ask? Read on for the surprising answer on how this was accomplished!

First, I had mentioned on Saturday on this very blog that Manitoba was one of three provinces with a chance to bring home two medals. As shown, the original schedule looked something as follows:
Everything seemed to be going as planned as the morning games were played. The Ontario women downed British Columbia to earn the bronze medal, and the Manitoba men's team followed up that effort by beating the British Columbia men's team to capture their own bronze medal. The gold-medal women's game saw Saskatchewan play extremely well in defeating Manitoba, and it seemed we were all set for an Alberta-Saskatchewan showdown.

Except the schedule changed.
Wait, a second. The Manitoba men who won bronze earlier in the day were now going to play Saskatchewan for the gold medal? How did this come about? What happened to Alberta, a team that had beaten Manitoba twice on two previous days?

The live stream of the final offered no answers as the broadcasters didn't even mention it from my skimming through the game quickly. It seems that Alberta just fell off the map and Manitoba was granted the chance to play for their second medal of the day. I posed the question today on Twitter in an effort to find answers, and Josh Schroeder (@jdschroeder) provided me the answer following his search of the NAHC Facebook page! His find was the following message posted to the social media platform (click it to read it).
According to the letter, Team Alberta's plan to leave on Sunday afternoon prior to the gold medal game at the 2019 NAHC was their own decision, and they made no attempt to resolve the problem after qualifying for the gold-medal game. In fact, from what the letter says, it sounds as though Team Alberta lobbied to have the gold-medal game time changed as opposed to them making alternate travel plans. The NAHC Working Group and the Provincial Territorial Aboriginal Sport Bodies (PTASB) decided that the tournament games would remain as they were, and Alberta was removed for the tournament.

First off, major kudos to the NAHC Working Group and the PTASB for sticking to their guns. As they stated, the tournament schedule was posted in November 2018, giving Team Alberta more than enough time to secure proper travel arrangements. The two groups also worked with tournament partners to try to help Alberta remain in Whitehorse for the gold-medal game, but it seems that Team Alberta wanted no part of that solution. Again, I want to commend the NAHC Working Group and PTASB for not giving in to Alberta's demands because, quite frankly, they caused this problem and did little to resolve it.

Second, who does Alberta think they are? They're no more important than any other team, and it's not like they were coming in as a powerhouse or defending champion. In fact, they played and lost in the relegation round at last year's tournament, so they have no more right to ask for a change than any other team. Just because you're inconvenienced due to your own travel plans and ignorance, Alberta, doesn't mean you can force the rest of the tournament to change its entire medal-round schedule. Even if you were the defending champion, that demand still wouldn't be considered. You're not that important.

Third, well done, Manitoba, for stepping up and seizing the opportunity. Having already won bronze, the Manitoba men decided to abandon that medal and play for the gold medal against Saskatchewan, hammering their neighbours to the west by a 6-1 score to claim the gold medal. I don't know how long the Manitoba men had to prepare, but they came out guns a-blazing in posting a 3-0 lead in the opening frame to carry them to the 6-1 win.

As a result, the final standings at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship were:
WOMEN: Ontario
MEN: British Columbia

WOMEN: Manitoba
MEN: Saskatchewan

WOMEN: Saskatchewan
MEN: Manitoba

It's rare that a one team can medal twice in the same event, but Manitoba did just that yesterday. While they abandoned the bronze medals to play for the gold medal, the fact that they even got a shot at winning the gold medal is rather astounding considering what Alberta did. When opportunity knocked, though, Manitoba seized it. Because of Alberta's poor planning and lack of any reasonable thought, Saskatchewan and Manitoba now will return home with one gold medal-winning team and one silver medal-winning team when it appeared only one province has that opportunity on Saturday and into Sunday morning.

Congratulations to all the teams, except the Alberta men, who participated at the 2019 National Aboriginal Hockey Championship with special mentions going to Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba for winning medals! You did your provinces proud, and you should take an immense amount of pride in what you accomplished!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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