Zach Whitecloud will forever have fond memories of the 2023 National Hockey League playoffs. That’s because the defenceman, a member of Sioux Valley Dakota Nation in Manitoba, became a Stanley Cup champion.
Whitecloud and his Vegas Golden Knights’ teammates captured the most prestigious trophy in hockey this past June. Vegas downed the Florida Panthers 4-1 in the NHL’s best-of-seven championship final series.
What Whitecloud would undoubtedly love even more is to have the Golden Knights defend their crown and win another Cup next spring.
Here’s closer look at Whitecloud and other Indigenous players on opening-night rosters when the NHL kicked off its 2023-24 regular season campaign on Oct. 10.
Whitecloud is a 26-year-old defenceman in his sixth pro season, but, technically, he was not on Vegas’ opening-night roster this season.
That’s because the day the NHL regular season commenced he was placed on Vegas’ long-term injured reserve list. He suffered an upper-body injury in a pre-season game in September.
Being placed on the long-term injured reserve list means Whitecloud is required to miss at least the first 10 games of the Golden Knights’ schedule. The earliest he could return to the lineup would be for Vegas’ Nov. 4 contest against the Colorado Avalanche.
Whitecloud had played a key role for the Golden Knights during their post-season run this past spring, earning eight points, including two goals, in 22 matches.
Oshie, who is 36, is currently the oldest Indigenous player toiling in the NHL.
Oshie, who has Ojibwe ancestry, was born in Mount Vernon, a city in the state of Washington.
He plays for the Washington (D.C.)-based Capitals.
Oshie was once considered one of the league’s top power forwards. But injuries have hampered his performances in recent years.
He only appeared in 44 (out of 82 regular season) games with the Capitals during the 2021-22 campaign. And he played in 58 contests last season.
As for this year, Oshie was left pointless through Washington’s first three games.
Dewar (Métis) is from The Pas, Man.
He’s in his second full season with the Minnesota Wild. Dewar, a centre, collected 18 points (six goals and 12 assists) in 81 regular season matches last season.
Dewar is in his fifth pro season. He spent about half of the 2021-22 campaign with the Minnesota squad. He split his time that year also suiting up for the Iowa Wild, Minnesota’s American Hockey League affiliate.
Dewar is off to a decent start this season, having already netted his first goal and earning his first assist in Minnesota’s first three outings.
An NHL veteran, Hamonic, who is Métis, is now in his 15th season of pro hockey.
The 33-year-old defenceman is a member of the Ottawa Senators. He joined the Senators in March 2022 via a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.
Hamonic, who was born in St. Malo, Man., has also played with the New York Islanders and Calgary Flames during his NHL career.
Last season in his first full year with the Senators, Hamonic, known for his dependable defensive play, chipped in offensively with 21 points (six goals and 15 assists) in 75 regular season games.
But he’s still looking for his first point of the season this year. He was held pointless in Ottawa’s first four matches.
MORE INDIGENOUS PLAYERS
A couple of other Indigenous players are expected to be back playing in the NHL soon.
Brandon Montour, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario, is a star defenceman with the Florida Panthers.
The Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup finals this past June in large part because of Montour’s effective play,
But Montour did not begin the current season on the Florida roster as he is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
He is not expected to return to the Panthers’ lineup until possibly mid-December.
As for Ethan Bear, a member of Ochapowace Nation in Saskatchewan, he too is recovering from shoulder surgery.
But Bear, a 26-year-old defenceman, is currently a free agent who has not signed with any NHL squad.
He was a member of the Vancouver Canucks last season, scoring three goals and adding 13 assists in 61 regular season games.
Though he has not played in the NHL since the 2021-22 season, goaltender Carey Price is still technically a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
Though he hasn’t officially announced his retirement, it remains to be seen whether ongoing knee issues will prevent Price, a member of Ulkatcho First Nation in British Columbia, from playing another NHL game.
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