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More from Friday....

After not knowing who many of the players were and just going by their numbers I was really intrigued by gray #19. He has speed and grit and has some real puck skills. I was able to get the teams' roster numbers and found out that #19 was indeed Roger Tagoona...

It just so happens that Greg Harder has a writeup in Saturday's LeaderPost which I am posting below.....

Tagoona had a role model

By Greg Harder, Leader-Post August 22, 2009


The path from Nunavut to the WHL isn't exactly well-travelled, but at least Roger Tagoona has one set of footprints to follow.

Jordin Tootoo made headlines a few years back when he blazed a trail from the northern town of Rankin Inlet to the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, eventually becoming the first Inuit player to make it to the NHL.

In doing so, Tootoo inspired a generation of players from the north -- including Tagoona, a fellow Rankin Inlet product who received an invitation this summer to try out for the Regina Pats.

"For me, (going to a WHL training camp) is the biggest thing in my hockey career," Tagoona explained. "It's good to know that a guy from Rankin Inlet made it. No one else had made it before so he kinda paved the way. It doesn't really make it easier but it gives you something to go for and have a role model."

According to Tagoona, every young player in Rankin Inlet tries to pattern his game after Tootoo, who's one of the hardest hitters in the NHL. Tootoo is also revered in his hometown because he hasn't forgotten his roots.

"He usually goes home in the summertime so you see him around," noted Tagoona, who has met Tootoo several times. "He played with my cousins. When you hang out with them, he'll help you (by giving advice). He doesn't have the big macho attitude when he goes back like he's better than everyone. He just hangs out like he's one of us, which he is."

Much like Tootoo, Tagoona is proud to be from the north. That said, he admits there are challenges from a hockey perspective.

"When you play in Rankin you don't have a league because there's not enough players," he explained. "So you just have your one team and your practices and about two tournaments a year that you have to look forward to. If you're a good player then you don't really get a challenge."

That changed last season when Tagoona played in Thompson for the Norman Northstars of the Manitoba midget AAA league. It was a crash course in what he calls "southern hockey."

"It was a big difference, playing systematic hockey," said Tagoona, 17. "There's a lot more contact. But I enjoyed myself. It was a fun season to actually be a part of a real team."

It was also a transition in terms of lifestyle, since Tagoona was accustomed to living in a small community where everyone knows your name.

There was also a matter of the cuisine.

"It was nice to eat traditional foods when I went back home," he said, referring to northern staples like whale meat, raw fish and caribou. "I got my mom to send me some food from the north (during the season). I'm not one that lived off it when I was in Rankin. It wasn't really that big of an adjustment but the fast food is definitely a big difference. There's not much fast food in Rankin. No McDonalds and Tim Hortons."

Despite how far he has come, Tagoona is still a raw talent, making him a longshot for the WHL this season. Following Regina's camp, he's slated to try out for the SJHL's Weyburn Red Wings.

Either way, he's prepared to do whatever it takes.

"I know I'm not going to be back in Nunavut; there's no scouts in Nunavut," he added with a smile. "Rankin is a really good hockey town for a town of 2,500. Sometimes for games half the town will be there. It's a good place to play hockey and a good place to live. But you've gotta move down south to play (serious) hockey."

© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post

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