An 11-year-old from Nunavut made its U20 Arctic Winter Games hockey team. It wasn't easy
Like many 11-year-olds faced with a TV camera, Jordyn Machmer lets her dad do most of the talking.
"You have to have a goal, and she had that goal and she did it and she worked hard for it," said David Kilabuk about his daughter, the youngest player on Team Nunavut's U20 female hockey team at the Arctic Winter Games (AWG).
But when she's on the ice, Jordyn takes charge.
"There were many hours where she did stuff on her own," Kilabuk said. "And she works out everyday on her own, I don't have to tell her to do this or to do that."
It's not easy being a hockey player in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, a community of fewer than 1,500 on Baffin Island.
There is no artificial ice in the community. Every year, Kilabuk builds Jordyn an outdoor rink to practice on, at least until the ice at the community's arena is formed in January.
"She does a lot of stuff behind our house — shooting — and stickhandling in the house as well."
Jordyn's mom, Sheena Machmer, took her daughter to the AWG tryouts in November 2022 to gain more hockey skills and the knowledge of the game, not expecting her to get chosen.
But she remembers when Jamie Savikataaq, the team's coach, called out the name of the players who made it onto the team. "I thought oh, she didn't make it, but then he said, 'and the baby of the team, Jordyn Machmer!'"
She said, "I was really kind of shocked and I didn't know what to say or what to feel in the dressing room."
"It was fun," Jordyn told CBC News nearly a month after getting selected for the only female hockey team Nunavut sent to the Games.
Savikataaq had his eye on Jordyn since first seeing 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.
"Her skill, her determination and her commitment level to the game is something I haven't seen in a long time. So she's certainly caught our attention with everything she does."
Team Nunavut goalie, 17-year-old Cassiar Cousins, said she didn't expect Jordyn to be so young. "Because she does look 13 and not 11 and finding out she's the baby of the group it was so, like, stressful to make sure she was OK, eating and well taken care of."
"It's a little scary at first because she is a lot smaller than us," said 19-year-old Team Nunavut captain Maddy Savikataaq. "But honestly, she is so talented and she is so good at what she does that you couldn't tell the difference between age on the ice."
'She amazes me'
Jordyn went to tryouts without having skated indoors since the previous spring, but still managed to score a couple of goals.
"She amazes me," said Sheena, her mom.
Sheena said Jordyn has always been into hockey and loves NHL Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid. Her two older brothers also play the game and passed that competitiveness on to her.
But that's unusual in Pangnirtung, where the 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 at the arena, the lack of sports programs and the high cost of sports equipment — Kilabuk says more dollars are needed for kids to get active in Nunavut.
"We can't register our players in the fall like other communities do with [Hockey Nunavut] until after January, and then that time we're not on the radar with Hockey Nunavut as far as coaching clinics go or referee clinics, so we're kinda late for everything cause our arena opens too late," Kilabuk said.
"If we had artificial ice, it would be a different story."
From Pang to Fort McMurray
Kilabuk said Jordyn started playing hockey in the house, then moved on to the ice at around the age of three or four years old.
He remembers the first time seeing her skate.
"She's always been a bit of an intense young lady ever since she was very little, and the first time I saw her skate, I kinda went like this: Whoa!"
He added, "But when she started playing, the first thing I thought of was she should go to Team Canada."
Jordyn played her first tournament when she was seven or eight years old, where she scored 17 goals in 5 games. The next year, Kilabuk said, she scored 30 goals — to which Jordyn quickly corrected him, "31!"
Kilabuk said he got a little emotional when he watched her hit the ice for the first time on Monday in a game against the Northwest Territories.
"Her older brother played in the AWG as well, three times," Kilabuk said. "Brought back a lot of memories and she has her own memories now, too, so that's great."
At that game, Jordyn said she felt nervous. "It was OK, though."
Sheena, Jordyn's mother, held fundraisers to help pay for Kilabuk's travel from Pangnirtung to Fort McMurray.
It was important to them to have at least one parent be at the Arctic Winter Games with their daughter.
"I think she'll do good," Sheena said. "I'm not worried about her. I know she's come a long way and she's grown a lot in just the last month playing with older kids."
Support for Jordyn
At these games in Fort McMurray, the U20 team played hard, but lost all four games.
Sheena said she's proud and thankful for all the support the family's been getting from Jordyn's friends, her school and the community.
Kilabuk said the kids at the school in Pangnirtung watched one of Jordyn's games on the AWG's live feed earlier this week.
"A lot of kids look up to her back home, so this can only help other players."