Sun, Jan 19, 2020 - Page 11 News List

Canadian network to start Plains Cree NHL broadcasts

AP, WINNIPEG, Manitoba

Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets slides after a check by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Anthony Cirelli during their game in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Friday.

Photo: AP

Clarence Iron says he is on a divine mission to revitalize the Plains Cree language through ice hockey.

He is to be the play-by-play announcer with host Earl Wood and analyst John Chabot tomorrow when the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) televises the Winnipeg Jets game against the Chicago Blackhawks. It is the first of six games to be broadcast in Plains Cree this season.

“I’ve been given an opportunity because I changed my life around, I gave my life to God, and now He’s giving me a new life and that’s why I’m very excited to be doing this,” said Iron, who has overcome problems with alcohol and drugs.

“Knowing that this is for the Aboriginal people to try and revitalize this language. I’ve been given another chance at life, that’s why I’m so excited,” he said.

Iron hopes the six games will help First Nations people across Canada reconnect with their language after residential schools almost wiped them out.

Iron, who attended Beauval Indian Residential School in northern Saskatchewan, said he has seen how the mandatory use of English and oppression of indigenous culture has led to many First Nations people losing their connection with their languages.

“There’s still lots of people that understand, they cannot speak, but they understand,” Iron told The Canadian Press.

“They could learn very quickly to speak it. In this sense of having the language in any capacity, as long as you’re speaking Cree, people are listening and they’re excited,” he said.

APTN and Rogers Sportsnet agreed on a three-year deal on Dec. 13 to broadcast at least six NHL games each season in Plains Cree.

After tomorrow’s game in Chicago, APTN is to next broadcast in Plains Cree when the Jets and Blackhawks face off in Winnipeg on Feb. 9.

The Winnipeg-based network would also broadcast in Plains Cree for the Calgary Flames game against the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 23; the Vancouver Canucks-Columbus Blue Jackets game on March 1; the Vancouver-Winnipeg game on March 15; and the Anaheim Ducks-Edmonton Oilers game on March 29.

Iron grew up idolizing Canadiens play-by-play announcer Danny Gallivan. In particular, Iron has tried to emulate Gallivan’s musical style of speaking.

“To try and imitate Danny Gallivan takes a little skill, but that’s how I’d like to sound to make the hockey exciting,” he said with a laugh.

Plains Cree is a very descriptive language, so learning how to use all the possible adjectives to describe a play has taken some practice, Iron said.

“When you’re speaking the Cree language you describe the thing, whatever it is, but there is also a name to it,” Iron said. “We have a word for puck, but we also say that it’s black and flat.

“Now if you’re going to describe it, it’s a very long way of describing. It’s something that’s round and flat and slides around something that you slap around with a stick,” he said.

On the ice, the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins edged the Red Wings 2-1 on Friday, the Ducks beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 and the Tampa Bay Lightning trounced Winnipeg 7-1.

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