The telecast of the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes game on March 24 will make history.
Sportsnet and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network are partnering together to broadcast a National Hockey League game in a First Nations language for the first time. (First Nations denotes Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are not Inuit or Métis, and the Cree Nation is one of the largest.)
There are eight First Nations players currently in the league according to Native Hockey’s website (including the Capitals’ TJ Oshie, who is from the Ojibwe Nation) and two of them will likely be playing in the matchup. Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price, from Anahim Lake, is the son of Lynda Price, the former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation.
The Carolina Hurricanes are the only NHL team with a Cree player: Micheal Ferland. The 26-year-old forward from Swan River, Manitoba will be playing in an NHL game broadcast in his Nation’s language for the first time. He is currently out with an upper-body injury but has returned to practice and could be back in the lineup on Friday.
— Sportsnet PR (@SportsnetPR) March 14, 2019
APTN will use Sportsnet’s broadcasting resources to air the program with Plains Cree commentary and analysis. The game will air on Rogers Hometown Hockey the same weekend that it stops in the Enoch Cree Nation.
Calling the game will be Clarence Iron, a program host on CFNK 89.9 FM “is recognized within the Indigenous hockey community as one of the ‘Cree Voices of Hockey.'” APTN’s video includes a sample of what Cree language commentary will sound like.
Both First Nations players in the game, Price and Ferland, give back to their communities with significant charity work. Ferland recently worked with youth at the Northwestel Summit Hockey Camp. “The opportunity to have Micheal come North and connect with these kids makes an enormous impact in their lives,” said the camp’s organizer, Joe Martin. “It will really resonate when they go back to their communities.”
Price and his wife Angela are both First Nations ambassadors for the Breakfast Club of Canada. The organization has 226 clubs “in Aboriginal communities across Canada feeding an estimated 24,244 kids on a daily basis.”
The Prices annually bring children to Montreal to explore the city, see a hockey game, and meet Carey Price. “For these kids,” the Prices said in a statement, “we know to what extent a simple spark can change their lives and the lives of people in their communities.”
Ferland credits recently-retired Jordin Tootoo for providing support. “I was also fortunate enough to have had Jordin Tootoo, the NHL’s first Inuit player, reach out to me after I was drafted.”
Congrats to my idol growing up on a great career!!! @Jtootoo22 🤜
— Micheal Ferland (@ferdaddy27) October 20, 2018
With regular, and recent, incidents of racism and discrimination in hockey at all levels, being a minority player is not easy. That outreach and support are crucial–both on a large scale, like with Sportsnet’s partnership with APTN–and on the personal level.
Leveraging Sportsnet’s production, APTN – the first national Indigenous broadcaster in the world – will air the landmark program featuring exclusive Cree-language commentary and analysis for fans across the country. Broadcaster Clarence Iron will have the play-by-play call for APTN, while Juno Award-winning musician Earl Wood will host the studio show alongside game analyst and NHL alum John Chabot.
“We are thrilled to partner with APTN on such a unique and momentous broadcast,” said Rob Corte, Vice President, Sportsnet & NHL Productions. “Committed to uniting Canadians through the sports they love, we at Sportsnet know that there is no stronger common thread than the country’s passion for hockey. We are truly honoured to have the opportunity to work with APTN to celebrate Canada’s Indigenous communities and the shared passion for hockey that unites us all.”
Set to deliver must-see NHL action to tens of thousands of Cree-speaking Canadians, the historic broadcast on APTN fittingly complements that weekend’s Rogers Hometown Hockey stop in Enoch Cree Nation, AB, where Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will host a live broadcast of the same game on Sportsnet. Enoch Cree Nation is a proud First Nation situated in Treaty No. 6 Territory in central Alberta, bordering the west side of Edmonton.
Jean La Rose, the chief executive of APTN, said the “initiative also coincides with UNESCO’s declaration of 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages.
“Supporting that declaration is incredibly important to us as we continue to serve Indigenous Peoples and work towards reconciliation.”
Headline image: Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America
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