Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There are currently 16 teams with aspirations to be crowned Stanley Cup champions in 2021.
That number will be dwindled down in the coming weeks until July when members of just one squad will win the prestigious trophy, annually awarded to the National Hockey League playoff winner.
As of today, there are five Indigenous players who are regulars with their clubs and one Indigenous coach among those still in the hunt to hoist the Cup this year.
Two of these individuals, Washington Capitals’ forward T.J. Oshie and St. Louis Blues’ head coach Craig Berube, have already been members of Stanley Cup-winning teams.
Oshie played a key role as the Capitals captured the league title in 2018. And Berube, who was listed as the St. Louis interim head coach at the time, led the Blues to Cup glory in 2019.
Besides Oshie, other Indigenous players currently on playoff rosters include Vegas Golden Knights’ defenceman Zach Whitecloud, Montreal Canadiens’ goalie Carey Price, Ethan Bear, who is an Edmonton Oilers’ defenceman, and Brandon Montour, a defenceman with the Florida Panthers.
It should also be noted two other Indigenous players – Florida blueliner Brady Keeper and Washington forward Garrett Pilon – both played one NHL regular season game each this season.
Though they’re not regulars with their respective teams, they could conceivably see some playoff action.
A closer look at Berube and the other five Indigenous playoff participants follows:
Berube, who is Cree and hails from Calahoo, Alta., never won the Stanley Cup during his 18-season pro playing career.
Berube though had a storybook finish as a bench boss during the 2018-19 season. Having previously served as St. Louis’ associate coach he was promoted to interim head coach in November of that year.
He managed to turn around the fortunes of the struggling Blues and led the franchise to its first Cup win.
As for this year, the Blues are trailing the Colorado Avalanche 1-0 in their best-of-seven opening-round playoff series. Game 2 is tonight in Denver.
Oshie, who has Ojibwe ancestry, is in his 13th NHL season. The 34-year-old is still one of the Capitals’ top offensive players as he finished third in team scoring, collecting 43 points, including 22 goals in 53 regular season matches this year.
Oshie, who was born in Mount Vernon, a city in the state of Washington, has continued to be an offensive spark early on in the post-season.
He’s earned three points, including a goal, in the Capitals’ first two outings.
Washington is tied 1-1 in its best-of-seven series against the Boston Bruins. Boston is hosting Game 3 tonight.
For Whitecloud, who is 24, this marked his first full NHL season.
Whitecloud, a member of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba, contributed offensively by netting 12 points, including a pair of goals, in 51 games.
Though the Golden Knights’ are of the NHL top scoring teams, they were blanked 1-0 in overtime by the Minnesota Wild in their playoff opener on Sunday.
Vegas rebounded, however, and managed to tie the series at 1-1 with a 3-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Whitecloud played almost 18 minutes in Game 2, and almost a full minute more than he did in the series-opening OT affair.
The series resumes Thursday in Minnesota.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Price heading into the post-season.
Price, a member of Ulkatcho First Nation in British Columbia, and his Montreal teammates will begin their 2021 playoffs on Thursday against the host Toronto Maple Leafs.
When he’s on his A game, Price is considered among the world’s top goaltenders. But that hasn’t been the case too often this season.
Price appeared in 25 games with the Canadiens and posted a 12-7-5 record. He hasn’t played an NHL game, however, in a month. He was sidelined this year with a lower-body injury as well as a concussion.
Bear, who is from Ochapowace Nation in Saskatchewan, is in his second full season with the Oilers.
Bear, who is 23, and his teammates will kick off their post-season tonight as they host the Winnipeg Jets.
Many Oilers’ observers believe Bear has struggled somewhat this season. He earned eight points, including just two goals, in 43 games. This scoring pace is considerably down from the 21 points and six goals he collected a year ago in 71 contests.
But Bear and his teammates could be in for a lengthy playoff run this year as Edmonton’s roster also includes Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the NHL’s top two pointgetters this season.
Montour, who is from the Six Nations community of Ohsweken in Ontario, was obviously hoping for a lengthy post-season run with the Panthers this season.
Montour, 27, was traded from the non-playoff bound Buffalo Sabres to the Panthers in April.
He collected four points (two goals, two assists) in his dozen regular season appearances with Florida. Montour had chalked up 14 points, including five goals, in 38 games with Buffalo this season.
But Montour and his new Florida teammates now find themselves in a bit of a hole, as they dropped the first two games in the best-of-seven opening playoff series versus the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay will host Game 3 in the series, which resumes on Thursday.