Fort McPherson canoeists, Robin Mercer-Sproule head to hall of fame

Fort McPherson's canoeists, right, are pictured during the 1970 centennial canoe race
Fort McPherson's canoeists, right, are pictured during the 1970 centennial canoe race.

Robin Mercer-Sproule, a veteran of 12 Arctic Winter Games now fighting cancer, is to enter the Northwest Territories’ Sport Hall of Fame.

Mercer-Sproule will be inducted as an athlete at this year’s ceremony on November 23.

She is joined by Abe Theil, who will enter as a builder for his work with volleyball in the territory; and the 1970 Fort McPherson Centennial canoe team, which featured Phillip Blake, Woody Elias, Fred Vittrekwa, Joe Vittrekwa, John Itsi, and Joseph Kaye.

Mercer-Sproule first entered the Arctic Winter Games as an 11-year-old figure skater. She subsequently competed in softball, volleyball, basketball, hockey, and broomball – appearing as both a goalie and forward in the latter two sports.



Having been first diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, Mercer-Sproule is now battling a return of the disease described as “inoperable” on a GoFundMe page established to help her.

Groups of Yellowknifers have spent recent months holding events and taking part in fundraisers on her behalf, including a team interviewed by Cabin Radio at the CIBC Run For Our Lives mud run.

Theil, a northerner since his childhood, has played volleyball at every level from local club competitions to the Arctic Winter Games and World Masters Games.

A former board member and president of Sport North, Theil has served the sport as an athlete, coach, official, and president of NWT Volleyball.



The team inductees are a group of canoeists who represented Fort McPherson in an endurance canoe race to celebrate the territory’s centenary in 1970.

Ten teams travelled 1,812 km from Fort Providence to Inuvik, taking part in a series of sprint and long-distance events as they journeyed along the Mackenzie River.

Fort McPherson finished in first place, earning an invite to race competitively in British Columbia the following year. A biography posted to Sport North’s website described the team as “heroes to the Gwich’in Nation.”

The 2018 ceremony will be held on Friday, November 23, at Yellowknife Elks Lodge #314. Tickets can be purchased on Sport North’s website.