The Spirit of George Armstrong: Aboriginal Players in the NHL Playoffs
With the Canadian federal election campaign officially in the third period, many of our beloved readers may be looking for another intense race to follow once the votes are in May 2nd. You may also be sick of the campaign by now, or even totally indifferent to it. Either way, the other big show going on in Canada is the NHL playoffs. The two beasts actually already met head-to-head once this month, with the French language debate being moved up a day because it conflicted with Game 1 of the Boston-Montreal series. The first round is just wrapping up, but there’s still a good month and a half left in this campaign and there’s a pretty good chance someone Aboriginal will lift the Stanley Cup in early June.
One of the best online resources focussing on First Nations, Metis, and Inuit hockey players in the pros and in the minors is NativeHockey.com. We consulted their site for most of the info posted here, but we also did our own unscientific research via Twitter and friends in different hockey circles across the country. There aren’t many, but there are some marquee players on some pretty powerful squads that may help lead their team to hockey’s Holy Grail.
The biggest name amongst Native players in these playoffs is probably Carey Price, goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens. He’s from the Ulkatcho band in British Columbia, where his mother was chief for a time. Price has been both the saviour and the goat in the eyes of Habs fans in playoffs past, but he’s one of the best modern-day goalies and a role model to young Native players everywhere. He has his work cut out for him though – at the time of posting, Montreal is one loss away from being eliminated.
Arron Asham has been to the final before – just a year ago with the Philadelphia Flyers, only to lose the Stanley Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Metis from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba now features prominently in the deep offense of the Pittsburgh Penguins. With superstar Sidney Crosby still out due to a concussion, the Penguins are relying on Asham’s grit to get them deeper into the playoffs in time for Crosby’s return.
The first Inuit ever to be drafted into the NHL is lighting it up for his Nashville Predators in this postseason. Jordin Tootoo is originally from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut and has been renowned as more of a bruiser over his six-year NHL career. Right now, he’s helping his team score and win, cementing his status as probably the most popular Aboriginal player in the league right now.
Dwight King is Metis from Meadow Lake, SK. His Los Angeles Kings are still battling the San Jose Sharks, but Dwight’s big brother D.J. and his Washington Capitals teammates are already through to the second round. Ojibway/Oneida Cody McCormick’s Buffalo Sabres are still alive. Some players, however, are already on the golf course. Vernon Fiddler of Edmonton is Metis, but his Phoenix Coyotes were eliminated last week by the Detroit Red Wings.
If you were wondering who to cheer for, maybe some of these homegrown Aboriginal talents will pull you onto a particular bandwagon. Because sometimes picking a team is harder than putting an “X” beside a name.
Have we missed anyone? Please let us know in the comments!