When Gabriel Rivest posted a video online of him and some friends playing hockey on a snow-free but ice-covered lake, he didn’t think many people would see it. But he was wrong.
The Yukoner, originally from northern Quebec, was just trying to show his friends and family back home a little bit of life in the Yukon.
“I knew that my friends would be jealous that I got a chance again to skate on perfect ice like this,” said Rivest.
But they weren’t the only ones.
The two-minute video of him and his friends slapping around a puck on Windy Arm quickly went viral.
“I had no idea that it was going to go that crazy,” said Rivest.
A couple days after he posted the video, Rivest was on his way to Skagway when a friend sent him a text message that the video had been viewed 17,000 times. “I thought he just meant 1,700 because I had no clue that it could possibly go viral,” said Rivest.
It was the first video he had ever posted online.
When he got to Skagway and stopped in at a sporting goods store, Rivest started to suspect that 17,000 may not have been a typo. The clerk behind the counter was watching his video.
“As soon as I got back to Whitehorse into a cell-service zone, my phone just started going crazy,” he said.
The video was featured on news broadcasts from coast to coast, NHL players posted it on their Twitter feeds, and Rivest even got emails from all over the world, including one from producers at TSN.
“They were like, ‘Next time it happens you got to give me a call we can organize something up there,’ but I don’t think they understand how rare it is and how unpredictable it is.”
The lake didn’t remain snow-free for long. When Rivest went back a few days after he shot the video, it was already covered in snow.
That was a year ago. The video now has garnered more than 400,000 hits.
“The funniest for me is that it’s still going,” said Rivest.
The video is now being featured in a crowd-sourced travel video from the Canadian Tourism Commission which will also be used online and in commercials for TV and movie theatres in 11 countries.
The video has made Rivest a bit of money as well, but not enough for him to quit his day job as a guide with Up North Adventures.
He got a few hundred dollars from all the YouTube hits, the tourism commission gave him a prize when they selected his video and Yukon Brewery gave him some beer for another video he made that day, featuring one of their cans of beer sliding along the ice.
While he only got a small amount of money and a bit of beer, the recognition has been the greatest reward, said Rivest.
“It’s going to be interesting to see where it leads,” he said.
Rivest has plans to make a documentary this summer, while on a two-month canoe trip through the North.
“I’m hoping that it’s going to lead to nice contacts and give me kind of a background, so when we’re asking for funding it’s going to be good to be able to say one of my videos was selected by the tourism association.”
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