Sportsnet and APTN are teaming up to make Canadian broadcast history with the first Cree-language NHL broadcast to take place Mar. 24.
Coinciding with the Rogers Hometown Hockey stop in Enoch Cree Nation, AB, the broadcast will feature Plains Cree commentary and analysis with broadcaster Clarence Iron handling play-by-play, NHL alum John Chabot acting as game analyst, and Juno Award-winning musician Earl Wood on studio host duties.
Live coverage of the Montreal Canadiens vs. Carolina Hurricanes will air on APTN at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.
APTN previously made history as the first Indigenous Official Broadcaster of any Olympic Games during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, broadcasting 15 hours of daily coverage in eight Indigenous languages, as well as French and English.
Clarence Iron is a host at CFNK 89.9 FM Pinehouse, SK, in his native Plains Cree language. With his experience calling Indigenous hockey tournaments as well as local games, he’s established himself within the Indigenous hockey community as one of the “Cree Voices of Hockey.”
John Chabot spent eight seasons in the NHL after being drafted 40th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1980. He played more than 500 games with Montreal, Pittsburgh and Detroit, followed by another 11 seasons in Europe. Following his playing career, Chabot went on to coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) before spending two seasons as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders from 2007-09. He’s also worked as a studio analyst for APTN during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and as a coach/instructor on APTN hockey series Hit the Ice.
Earl Wood is one of the original founders of the Juno Award-winning and six-time Grammy nominees Northern Cree Singers, sometimes referred to as the “Indigenous Rolling Stones.” A survivor of both residential schools and the Sixties Scoop, Wood hails from Saddle Lake, AB.
According to 2016 census numbers, there are about 97,000 Cree speakers in Canada, with the majority of those in the Prairie provinces and Quebec.
Jean La Rose, the CEO of APTN, said the broadcast fulfills a goal to present hockey programming in Indigenous languages and coincides with UNESCO’s declaration proclaiming 2019 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,” said La Rose.
“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.”
In addition to delivering Canada’s first Cree-language NHL broadcast, Sportsnet also contributes to the national productions of Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition and Blue Jays: Pinoy Edition on OMNI Television.