Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
When he was looking for a new home to continue his National Hockey League career last season, Evander Kane went to the Edmonton Oilers.
And now Kane, a 31-year-old from Vancouver, has been ‘adopted’ once again, this time by Alexander First Nation.
Kane visited the First Nation, located just under an hour’s drive northwest of Edmonton, on Feb. 13.
“It was great,” Kane said. “It was a really good experience.”
He was greeted by about 200 members of the community at the local school, named Kipohtakaw Education Centre. Kane was blanketed and presented with an honourary status card and also given a Cree name, which translates to Hits Like A Buffalo.
“I like it,” said Kane, who is not one to shy away from the physical aspects of the sport. “It’s a great name. They surprised me with it.”
Kane had been told that he would be receiving a Cree name during his visit to the First Nation on Monday. But Alexander First Nation officials refused to tell him the name before he arrived.
Kane, who is Black, was named by his parents after former professional American boxer Evander Holyfield. Kane’s father Perry was an amateur boxer.
Kane does not believe he has any Indigenous ancestry, but he welcomed the opportunity to visit Alexander First Nation. He said his manager asked him a few weeks ago if he was interested in a trip to the community.
“I didn’t really know what they were planning,” Kane said. “I thought I’d go out there and sign some autographs.”
Kane said he was keen to take part when the opportunity arose.
“The Indigenous communities spread out in Alberta are important to the city of Edmonton and to the province of Alberta,” he added.
Kane even welcomed the opportunity to join a local drum group for an impromptu song.
The hockey player wants to continue having some sort of relationship with Alexander First Nation. Nothing is concrete right now.
“I’m sure at some point we’ll definitely get back in touch,” he said.
George Arcand, the chief of Alexander First Nation, said he approached the community’s education director a few months ago to see whether it was possible to have at least one Oilers’ player visit the First Nation.
The Oilers do not have any Indigenous players on their roster this season. Arcand said Kane was approached to visit the community since he is from a minority community himself.
“He’s got challenges like we do and we thought it would be good to hear from him about that.”
Kane was presented with an oversized honourary status card. The registry number listed on the card is 9191919191, signifying the number 91 that he currently wears as a member of the Oilers.
“I think they’re keeping it and displaying it in some way at the school,” Kane said.
Kane was told he would eventually receive a pocket-sized honourary status card. He was also presented with various gifts, including a blanket, a medallion with the Oilers’ logo on it, and a shirt.
“I knew a little bit about their culture,” Kane said about Indigenous people. “But I’m not going to sit here and tell you I knew a lot.”
Arcand said Kane was scheduled to spend 75 minutes at the school, but ended up staying for about two hours.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Arcand said. “But I must say Evander Kane was very professional and happy to be here. He ended up staying longer just because he was with the kids.”
Arcand also approved of the Cree name that was bestowed upon Kane.
“I thought it was very comforting to give him that name,” Arcand said. “He’s a feisty hockey player.”
Because of his First Nation’s proximity to Edmonton, Arcand said many of those from his community are Oilers’ fans.
“People were very excited to have him come here,” Arcand said of Kane. “The Oilers are doing really well right now and it was a bit better to bring him out now.”
Edmonton is sporting a 30-19-5 record, good for fourth place in the NHL’s seven-team Pacific Division. The Oilers, however, are just three points behind the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights.
The Oilers are on a bit of a roll of late having won seven of their last 10 matches. Two of Edmonton’s three losses during this stretch were in overtime.
Like Kane, Arcand is also hoping the NHLer is able to pay a return visit to Alexander First Nation.
“Maybe we can do something at the end of the (hockey) year,” Arcand said.
Kane is in his 14th pro season. He began his NHL career with the Atlanta Thrashers and has also suited up for the Winnipeg Jets, Buffalo Sabres and San Jose Sharks.
When the Oilers signed him in January 2022, Kane had been toiling in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda.
Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.