Yukon soccer standouts honoured
The Yukon’s high-performance soccer community gathered at the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on Dec. 20, 2021, to recognize player success through the unveiling of two billboards.
Honouring the 82 players from the Yukon who have gone on to play college- and university-level soccer, the list is an important marker of past accomplishments.
Jake Hanson, technical director of the Yukon Soccer Association, explained the idea was to celebrate the past and provide motivation for the future.
“We’ve been watching the numbers of college and university players from the territory increase and I think it’s nice for the individuals to be able to look back and sort of be recognized for their achievements,” Hanson said. “I feel like sometimes its easy to forget kind of where we came from and what has been accomplished in the time frame.”
Hanson said the first Yukoners to make waves Outside were in the early 90s, but that the “regular trend” of success started around the year 2000, with a number of players competing for Grant McEwan College over the following handful of years.
“It just sort of snowballed from there,” Hanson said. “We’ve had multiple players in college and university every year, growing to this year where we have 12.”
One of those athletes is Sammy Demchuk, a two-sport athlete in soccer and basketball for the Lethbridge College Kodiaks, who said the unveiling was a solid reminder of what’s possible.
“It’s really nice to be back with all my friends that I grew up playing with and helped me get to where I am today,” Demchuk said. “It’s just nice, especially with these new posters now, to show the younger kids that they can go to the next level.”
Demchuk said she watched her sister, Jayden Demchuk, earn a place with Grand Prairie Regional College and also looked to her now-teammate Malorie Hanson for inspiration.
“You just get so many opportunities here because there is lots of competition, but it’s a lot less than a bigger city with a bigger population of kids,” Demchuk said. “It’s kind of the same people for most things, so you get lots of good friendships and then that just helps with your game a lot.”
The unveiling was attached to a weekend camp for the Canada Summer Games boys team, and players with that team also appreciated the value of the new billboards.
Felix Masson, who is a part of the Canada Summer Games squad as well as competing with the St. Albert Impact in Alberta, echoed that the Yukon soccer scene is small but mighty.
“It’s pretty awesome because we’re a small place. We all get to play with each other so even if you’re younger than someone, you can still play with them,” Masson said. “It’s good growing up seeing everyone in front of you, seeing where you can play at, seeing the level you need to be at to play in those sports.”
Masson was back in the Yukon for the holidays, and the camp was a welcome opportunity to catch up with some familiar faces.
“It’s pretty awesome to be able to come back and see the level that you need to play at to be playing in those spaces because when these people come back and they’re playing at these universities or professional academies, it’s pretty incredibly to see the level that you need to be,” Masson said.
One of Masson’s Canada Summer Games teammates, Tristan Martin, said seeing friends succeed has inspired him also.
“I find that it’s impressive to see some of my teammates going out somewhere and applying for stuff,” Martin said. “Just seeing everybody in general, and seeing how they perform.”
Martin said he hopes to attend a goalkeeper camp in Ottawa next year, and if that attitude is any indication, the billboards may prove worth their weight in gold.
Hanson, too, acknowledged the value of inspriation.
“When we first unveiled it, the kids stood in front of it for five or 10 minutes and were reading through the list, mesmerized by it all, and some were probably excited to see their name because they were on that,” Hanson said. “And others were probably thinking it would be nice to be on that someday, so hopefully it motivates and inspires the next generations.”