When Reed Clarke took charge of the Edmonton Stingers prior to their 2022 campaign, one of the things he was keen on doing was to stage an Indigenous Celebration Night.
Clarke, who is the president and CEO of the Stingers, a pro franchise that competes in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL), said various restraints prevented the organization from organizing a match celebrating Indigenous culture and history last season.
“We couldn’t find the time and resources to do it right,” Clarke said.
But Stingers’ representatives have been hard at work the past several months to stage an Indigenous Celebration Night this year.
That contest will be held this Saturday, June 17, when the Stingers host the Montreal Alliance.
The Stingers play their home contests out of the Edmonton Expo Centre.
The Stingers joined forces with Windspeaker Media and the Indigenous Edmonton Entertainment Group to organize this weekend’s contest.
The event will be historic as it will be the first pro basketball game to be broadcast in both English and Cree.
The contest will be broadcast live on 89.3 The Raven, a Windspeaker Media radio station based in Edmonton. The game starts at 7 p.m. (MDT), the broadcast at 6:50 p.m.
Wayne Jackson and Darcy Houle will handle broadcasting duties. (Listen to a brief interview with Jackson above.)
“This will be an exciting and historic broadcast as it will allow the “nêhiyawêwin” (Cree) language to be broadcast to basketball fans,” said Bert Crowfoot, CEO of Windspeaker Media, which not only includes The Raven, but CFWE, CJWE, CZIN and Windspeaker.com.
“This is a way of regaining our culture, regaining our language. We look forward to working alongside the Stingers on this historic broadcast.”
For fans living outside of Edmonton keen to listen to the broadcast, they can tune in at
at 89.3 The Raven (ravenradio.ca) or download the Windspeaker Media app on ios/android to listen to all Windspeaker Media radio stations.
Saturday’s contest will include a halftime rendition of BEAR GREASE, a production with an Indigenous twist on the musical GREASE.
BEAR GREASE includes powwow music and Indigenous culture.
“What I really love about this is that we’re doing it in a celebratory manner,” Clarke said of the Stingers’ Indigenous Celebration Night.
While the 2022 CEBL schedule had already been released when Clarke joined the Stingers, he said his organization had plenty of time to plan this Saturday’s game for 2023.
“We sat down before the new year to have this conversation, before the schedule was even done,” he said.
Clarke said he was interested in having a Cree radio broadcast of the game in large part to follow in the footsteps of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Elks.
The Elks had partnered with Windspeaker Media last summer to have their July 22 home game against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers broadcast in Cree.
“We also said ‘let’s take this to the next level’,” Clarke said of his team’s Indigenous-themed night.
The Stingers can accommodate about 4,000 fans at their home facility. Clarke is expecting a large Indigenous contingent to show up on Saturday.
The club has given away 500 tickets to various groups to distribute to Indigenous fans.
“We’re expecting a big crowd,” Clarke said. “It should be a sellout.”
The CEBL, which began play in 2019, features 10 teams this season. Others in the league include Vancouver Bandits, Calgary Surge, Saskatchewan Rattlers, Winnipeg Sea Bears, Brampton Honey Badgers, Scarborough Shooting Stars, Niagara River Lions and Ottawa BlackJacks.
The Stingers captured back-to-back CEBL championships in 2020 and ’21.
Since June is designated as National Indigenous History Month in Canada, Clarke said the Stingers’ Indigenous Celebration Night will become a staple for the organization.
“One hundred per cent this will be an annual event,” he said. “Especially with our schedule in June. We can do this every year.”