Sportsnet, APTN team up for first Cree-language NHL broadcast

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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Carolina Hurricanes' Jordan Martinook during second period action in Montreal on Thursday, December 13, 2018. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Sportsnet and APTN are teaming up to deliver the first ever NHL game in Plains Cree. The broadcast will air on Sunday, March 24, as the Montreal Canadiens meet the Carolina Hurricanes on Rogers Hometown Hockey in Cree on APTN at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.

Leveraging Sportsnet’s production, APTN – the first national Indigenous broadcaster in the world – will air the program featuring exclusive Cree-language commentary and analysis for fans across the country. Broadcaster Clarence Iron will have the play-by-play call for APTN, while Juno Award-winning musician Earl Wood will host the studio show alongside game analyst and NHL alum John Chabot.

“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.”

The historic broadcast on APTN fittingly complements that weekend’s Rogers Hometown Hockey stop in Enoch Cree Nation, Alta., where Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will host a live broadcast of the same game on Sportsnet. Enoch Cree Nation is a proud First Nation situated in Treaty No. 6 Territory in central Alberta, bordering the west side of Edmonton.

“This brand-new venture will allow us to pursue our goal of presenting premier hockey programming to APTN audiences in Plains Cree,” says Jean La Rose, CEO of APTN. “This initiative also coincides with UNESCO’s declaration of 2019 as 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.”

“Canada’s hockey fans are among the greatest in the world, and their longstanding tradition of watching games together, across all cultures and generations, is unmatched,” said David Proper, Executive Vice President, Media and International Strategy, NHL. “Sportsnet is a best-in-class partner and continues to uphold this important tradition, delivering NHL hockey to Canadians in transformative ways, as evidenced by the first Cree-language NHL broadcast. The NHL commends Sportsnet and APTN for this groundbreaking partnership, which will serve Canada’s Indigenous communities and all hockey fans nationwide.”

Clarence Iron lives in Pinehouse, Sask., where he works at CFNK 89.9 FM as a program host in his native Plains Cree language. With his experience calling Indigenous hockey tournaments as well as local games, Iron is recognized within the Indigenous hockey community as one of the “Cree Voices of Hockey.”

Drafted 40th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 1980, John Chabot spent eight seasons in the NHL and 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 before spending two seasons as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders from 2007-2009. Chabot also worked as a studio analyst on the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games with APTN and as a coach/instructor on APTN’s hockey series, Hit the Ice.

A survivor of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, Earl Wood hails from Saddle Lake, AB, and is one of the original founders of the Northern Cree Singers. Referred to by some as the “Indigenous Rolling Stones,” the Northern Cree Singers are a Juno Award-winning group and have been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards.

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