For the first time in NHL history, a game will be delivered in an Indigenous language.
Sportsnet is teaming up with APTN to broadcast the March 24 game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes in Plains Cree.
The partnership has been nine years in the making.
“It’s sort of a follow up to our Olympic experience in 2010,” said Jean La Rose, chief executive officer for APTN.
“At that time our audience told us they really wanted us to try to find ways to have more sport, and one of them was hockey.”
The game is part of Rogers Hometown Hockey, a traveling festival, which stops in Canadian communities to celebrate local hockey stories. The two-day festivities will be stopping in Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta for what Rogers and Sportsnet are calling the first Rogers Hometown Hockey in Cree.
APTN has assembled a four-member panel to deliver analysis and commentary in Cree.
The panel includes Earl Wood, Clarence Iron, John Chabot and Jason Chamakese.
Chabot spent eight seasons in the NHL and played more than 500 games with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
He will lend his knowledge and experience of the game to help provide analysis in English, which will then be translated to Cree.
“We want to use this as an opening to something further,” said Chabot, adding he would like to see a game broadcast in Cree every week.
“It’s going to be something that interests a lot of communities and it’s something we want to see used going forward.”
Jean La Rose is the CEO of APTN.
Chamakese, who is from Pelican Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, will be provide additional commentary.
Chamakese is a teacher and promoter of the Cree language.
“Hopefully what we’re doing with this production will inspire other people,” he said. “Not just young people but those who are disenfranchised from their traditional language.”
Iron, who hosts a radio program in Plains Cree out of Pinehouse, Sask., will provide play-by-play during the game.
He has previous experience calling games for minor leagues, and said that word spread quickly about his venture into the pros.
“People were calling me. They’re excited. They’re asking me when is it and they want to listen,” Iron said.
“They’re kind of hungry for a play-by-play in Cree.”
Wood, from Saddle Lake, Alta. and a founding member of the Northern Cree Singers, will host the show.
He said airing a NHL game in an Indigenous language is about more than hockey.
“It’s going to illuminate and enlighten and reinvigorate interest throughout Indigenous communities and beyond,” Wood said.
“Recognizing the importance of the Indigenous language, and what the…Indigenous worldview through that language, has to offer.”
Live coverage will air on APTN on Sunday, March 24, beginning at 7 p.m. ET and 4 p.m. PT.