Family, friends excited as player from Saskatchewan First Nation makes NHL debut

About two dozen proud and excited fans were planning to attend an Oilers game in Edmonton on Thursday night to cheer on an Indigenous player making his NHL debut.

EDMONTON — About two dozen proud and excited fans were planning to attend an Oilers game in Edmonton on Thursday night to cheer on an Indigenous player making his NHL debut.

Ethan Bear from the Ochapowace First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan was called up from the team's American Hockey League affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors, in California on Tuesday.

Chief Margaret Bear said she was planning to go to the game at Rogers Place against the Nashville Predators along with the defenceman's parents and 20 to 25 others from Ochapowace.

She said many more supporters from First Nations across the province planned to go to Saturday's home game.

"It's all about historic events, something that Ethan has truly achieved and we're so proud of him," the chief said before Thursday's game.

"Our community, our youth, our elders, our leaders, our families back home are just gleaming with joy right now."

Bear, 20, is one of about half a dozen players on NHL rosters who is of Indigenous descent.

The chief, who is not related to Ethan, said he is not only a source of pride for her people, but has become a role model.

"It's all about ... our youth (seeing) that no matter what you do in life, if you have your mind set to your goal and with hard work .. you can do what you want," she said.

The Oilers chose Bear in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL entry draft. He was the captain of the Seattle Thunderbirds when they won the Western Hockey League championship last spring and was named the league's top defenceman. 

The five-foot-11, 209-pound Bear has six goals and 10 assists in 34 games with Bakersfield in his rookie professional season.

(CKRM, The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press