‘Honor’: Edmonton Oilers defenseman wears shirt with Cree syllables


An Indigenous NHL player paid special tribute to his nation on his jersey during the Battle of Alberta on Tuesday night between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.During the exhibition game, Oilers defenseman Ethan Bear wore a jersey with his name written in Cree syllables. The 23-year-old is from the Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan.

In a statement posted to the NHL website, Bear said he wears the jersey for all the Indigenous players who came before him and for Indigenous kids who dream of playing in the NHL.

“It will be an honor to wear this jersey tonight,” Bear said on Tuesday before the game.

The Oilers beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 in the exhibition game, the only one of the two teams before the start of the NHL Stanley Cup qualifying weekend.

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild, Cree Chief and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, also praised Bear for wearing the jersey in a statement on an NHL blog.

Littlechild said this was especially important because of the many years it took for the Cree to gain the right to use their own writing system.

“Ethan brings great pride to all of us with his strength and natural ability to overcome challenges,” he said.

“It’s important and people around the world will remember when they see the syllables on Ethan’s jersey to be courageous, to be confident and to be courageous. ”

Littlechild said the name of the spirit in bear cry, maskwa, is representative of the sacred teachings of courage.

Tom Meneen is a councilor for the Tallcree First Nation in northern Alberta.

He said it was important for Indigenous children to have a bigger role model, especially those who aspire to play high performance hockey.

“For a lot of young people this is a big deal,” Meneen said.

“I have been coaching hockey for many years… and you hope there is someone they can look up to and have more players at this level of hockey. It would be great for a lot of kids.

Meneen said he tried to get a signed shirt from Bear.


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