NHL called in Cree helps revive, sustain Indigenous language: hockey analyst

The only other NHL broadcast in an Canadian Indigenous language happened Jan. 30, 2010

An NHL game called in Plains Cree is a step toward keeping Indigenous languages alive, says a hockey analyst.

Former NHL centre John Chabot will join play-by-play announcer Clarence Iron, musician Earl Wood and Cree teacher Jason Chamakese in a Winnipeg studio on Sunday.

The panel will provide commentary and analysis of a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

“When you look at people’s claims to heritage and traditions, it all goes back to language,” Chabot told The Canadian Press on Friday.

“We’re trying to re-introduce our languages into a lot of communities where it’s slipped over the last number of years. This just gives us more of an opportunity to let our kids know that our language is valued.

“To be able to present it on TV to a national audience is fantastic.”

The only other NHL broadcast in an Canadian Indigenous language happened Jan. 30, 2010, when a game between Montreal and the Ottawa Senators was delivered in the Inuit language Inuktitut.

Chabot played 500 NHL games over eight seasons for Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit.

He has coached in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and spent two seasons as an assistant coach of the New York Islanders.

He also has been a coach on APTN’s hockey series “Hit the Ice”.

The reality TV series features young Aboriginal players from across Canada at camps and tryouts, with the chance to be scouted by junior and pro leagues.

Brady Keeper, a Cree defenceman from Cross Lake, Man., became the first alumnus of the show to sign an NHL contract this past week when the 22-year-old and the Florida Panthers agreed to a two-year deal.

Chabot will be the commentator not speaking Cree on Sunday.

READ MORE: Believed to be first NHL game in Plain Cree language airs

Hailing from the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation north of Ottawa, where Algonquin is the mother tongue, Chabot says he himself is an example of the need to maintain Indigenous language as he speaks ”a bit” of Algonquin.

He’ll says he’ll keep his English commentary “short and sweet” on Sunday to give a translator time to interpret into Cree.

“We want to make sure the game is presented well,” he said. “We want to make sure there is an opportunity to go further into other years doing this.”

The game coincides with the Rogers Hometown Hockey festival stopping at the Enoch Cree Nation near Edmonton.

CBC introduced languages other than French and English to hockey games when it was the national rights holder, starting with Punjabi over a decade ago.

CBC also experimented with Mandarin, Cantonese and Italian.

Hockey Night Punjabi on OMNI, owned by current rights holder Rogers, is now a fixture on Saturday nights and in the playoffs.

Los Angeles, Chicago and Las Vegas are three NHL markets that provide Spanish-language coverage.

“The NHL has done a real good job of pushing their product to new Canadians,” Chabot said.

“They’ve got the Punjabi broadcast and different language broadcasts of the NHL, but this is the first for an Indigenous Canadian language and Cree being the most widely spoken.”

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price’s mother is the former chief of B.C.’s Ulkatcho First Nation. Hurricanes forward Michael Ferland is Cree.

Given the number of Indigenous players — First Nations, Inuit and Metis — in NHL history, broadcasting games in their languages may seem long overdue.

“Not really lamenting the fact, but celebrating that it is finally … even though it is overdue, it is finally being recognized and being presented in a language that is ours,” Chabot said.

“As we move forward with whatever issues we have as a country, we do want to move forward and this is one of the ways we can move forward.”

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta reports just seven new COVID-19 cases

‘Today’s numbers mark an occasion to be celebrated’

Lacombe County Reopens Sandy Point Beach for the season

Signage is posted at the beach outlining public health orders

Still no confirmed active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer, central zone

There are 15 new confirmed cases were in Alberta, the province said Thursday

Lacombe’s Cilantro and Chive has ‘food on plates’ again

Dining room service opens within health guidelines

Alberta discussing early Stage 2 economic relaunch

Nineteen new COVID-19 cases confirmed by government Wednesday

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The Lacombe Express covers the stories that matter to you and to our community

PODCAST: The Expert tackles the return of sports

Cam Moon, Joe Whitbread, Byron Hackett and Todd Vaughan discuss how sports can come back

Montreal man believes rough arrest caught on video was racially motivated

Montreal man believes rough arrest caught on video was racially motivated

N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on ‘wellness checks’

N.B. police shooting of Indigenous woman leads to questions on ‘wellness checks’

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Minister says reckoning on police violence against Indigenous people needed

Nunavut to bring in civilian police review after arrest video: minister

Nunavut to bring in civilian police review after arrest video: minister

Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill

Trudeau takes a knee at anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill

Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara faces assault, break and enter, harassment charges

Liberal MP Marwan Tabbara faces assault, break and enter, harassment charges

Black Canadians say racism here is just as harmful as in the United States

Black Canadians say racism here is just as harmful as in the United States

Most Read