Oiler to honour Cree heritage in Battle of Alberta exhibition

EDMONTON (CityNews) – It’s one of a few of the most anticipated games for the NHL ahead of the qualifier round–the Battle of Alberta.

But for one Edmonton defenceman, the exhibition match against Calgary means so much more.

Ethan Bear from Ochapowace Nation in southern Saskatchewan will honor his Indigenous heritage by displaying his jersey name in Cree syllabics.

The 23-year-old explained in a statement how proud he was to be able to honour all past, present and future Indigenous hockey players.

“It will be an honour to wear this jersey tonight. I feel like I will be wearing it for all those Indigenous players who came before me and those Indigenous kids dreaming of playing in the NHL.”

Bear was one of six Indigenous and Metis players to start the 2019/20 season, alongside Calgary Flames defenceman Travis Hamonic, Vancouver Canucks forward Micheal Ferland, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, Buffalo Sabers defenceman Brandon Montour, and Washington Capitals winger T.J. Ohsie.

Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild praised Bear, the Oilers and the NHL saying the special jersey is a historic gesture.

“As the International Chief for Treaties 6, 7 and 8, and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League for this most positive act of Reconciliation,” Chief Littlechild said in a statement.

“The Oilers continue to lead the way with the power of sport to build good relations among our Peoples, Tribes and Nations. Coming from Maskwacis (Bear Hills), in our culture, we have a naming ceremony on which we rely for self-identity and positive self-esteem. It took us many years at the United Nations to secure the right to use our writing system Cree syllabics and to use our language for our own names for communities, places and persons.

“The spirit name in Cree for Maskwa is also one of our sacred teachings of courage and that is what the bear represents. Ethan brings all of us great pride with his strength and natural ability to overcome challenges. This is significant and people everywhere will be reminded when they see the syllabics on Ethan’s jersey to have courage, be confident and be brave.”

Game Preview

While the game is supposed to be a friendly exhibition to allow players to get back to game speed before the qualifier round, it’s almost a guarantee the game will be a nailbiter.

The Calgary Flames won three-of-four games during the regular season, and outscored the Oilers 16-15.

The most impactful players during the four Battle of Alberta meetings were Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Kailer Yamamoto for the Oilers, and Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, and Cam Talbot for the Flames.

Both teams will start the qualifier round on August 1st. The Oilers will take on the Chicago Blackhawks at 1 p.m. and the Flames will battle the Winnipeg Jets in the 8:30 p.m. match.

The Oilers and Flames will play at 8:30 p.m. July 28. The game can be viewed on Sportsnet and listened to on the Fan960 in Calgary and the Oilers Radio Network.

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