• By: OLM Staff

Natives Indigenous to All-Star Game

Once again, Carey Price represented the Montreal Canadiens at the All-Star Game in Ottawa last week. Not only was he the only Habs there (excluding the rookies), and with reason, but he was also the only Native NHL player there too.

According to Greg Horn, editor-in-chief of Iori wase, news from the Kahnawake region, “it’s important to have Native players in the National Hockey League, period.” For Horn, “having Native hockey players in the NHL is important for Native people across North America.”

There are 11 Native hockey players active in the NHL. They are Arron Asham, René Bourque, Kyle Chipchura, Vernon Fiddler, D.J. King, Dwight King, Cody McCormick, T. J. Oshie, Carey Price, Sheldon Souray and Jordin Tootoo. According to Horn, player’s Native ethnicity isn’t “talked about as much as it could or should be, part of it is the team’s fault and part of it is the players fault.”

With 652 members of the media that took part in the All-Star powwow, Price had the ability to definitely highlight his ethnicity. By doing so, “it gives young Native hockey players role models to look up to someone with a similar history and background, playing the game at its highest level,” said Horn. “But isn’t it a testament that these players made it to where they were without their heritage being brought up? I think that shows that they have made it on their own merits,” adds Horn.

It might be surprising, but since the turn of the millennium, Native players appeared seven out of ten times in the NHL’s mid-season festivities. This is Ulkatcho First Nation’s Price third consecutive presence at the mid-season classic after joining the league in 2007. Before Price, the last Native players to lace them up for the All-Star confrontation were the Cree, Jonathan Cheechoo and the Métis, Sheldon Souray in 2007. Wade Redden, a Métis himself, skated for North America in 2002, but the flu kept him sidelined in 2004. There are a few more Native’s who also wore the All-Star jersey.

Métis Bryan Trottier is the Native player with the most appearances at the All-Star Game with eight. While playing in the NHL as a centre with the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins, Trottier amassed 1425 points in the NHL. Right behind Trottier with seven nominations are Mohawk George Armstrong and Métis Theo Fleury. As for the tenacious Fleury, he piled up 1088 points in 1084 games.  Métis Reggie Leach, nicknamed the Chief, also skated among the NHL’s best in 1976 and 1980.

Even if Native represent a small band of players in the NHL, many of them excel and are rewarded with an All-Star nomination. “I think that it’s important to have Native in the All-Star game, but only if they deserve to be there. I don’t think they should be in an All-Star Game based solely on their ethnicity,” said Horn. “If a Native NHLer is good enough to be on an All-Star team, then all the better.”  Native’s represent 0.01 per cent of the 737 NHL players, and having one of them in a select group of 46 All-Star players is an achievement to be proud of.