By Sam Laskaris
The quest to win this year’s Stanley Cup, the most prestigious trophy in hockey, began on Wednesday. And there are seven Indigenous players who are among those hoping to help their National Hockey League clubs capture the famed cup.
Two of those individuals, goaltender Carey Price and forward Dwight King, are members of the Montreal Canadiens. They are striving to help the Canadiens register a record 25th Stanley Cup.
The other Indigenous players in the NHL this season who saw their clubs qualify for the playoffs are Jordin Tootoo (Chicago Blackhawks), Micheal Ferland (Calgary Flames), Brandon Montour (Anaheim Ducks), Vern Fiddler (Nashville Predators) and T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals).
Six of the Indigenous players in the post-season are from Canada. Oshie, who was born in the state of Washington, is the lone American in the group.
A closer look at all seven of the Indigenous players follows.
CAREY PRICE – Price, a member of British Columbia’s Ulkatcho First Nation, has won his share of awards during his 10-season pro career, all with the Canadiens. But Price, who captured the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 2015, is still seeking his first Stanley Cup ring.
Though he’s posted better statistical seasons before, Price’s 37-20-5 record and his 2.23 goals-against average this year are still rather impressive. Price and his teammates are battling the New York Rangers in their opening-round playoff series.
DWIGHT KING – King, a Métis who is from Meadow Lake, Sask., is the only Indigenous athlete in this year’s playoffs that has already won a Stanley Cup. In fact, he was a member of the league champion Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014.
King, a 27-year-old left winger, began the current campaign with the Kings but was traded to the Canadiens in early March. King, who had earned 15 points in 63 matches with Los Angeles, suited up for 17 regular season outings with Montreal and scored one goal.
JORDIN TOOTOO – Tootoo, the first Inuk to play in the NHL, is in his first season with the Blackhawks. Before joining the Chicago squad, Tootoo had played in Nashville, Detroit and New Jersey.
Despite being a high-scoring forward in the junior ranks, Tootoo, who was born in Manitoba but grew up in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, has never really put up big numbers in his 14-season pro career. He appeared in 50 regular season matches with the Blackhawks and was credited with three points, including two goals.
MICHEAL FERLAND – Ferland, a 24-year-old Cree, became a valued member of the Flames this season. He chipped in offensively scoring 15 goals and adding 10 assists in 76 regular season outings.
Ferland, who was born in Swan River, Man., was considered somewhat of a longshot to become an NHL regular as he was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 pro draft. Ferland and his Calgary teammates are squaring off against the Anaheim Ducks in their opening-round playoff series.
BRANDON MONTOUR – Montour, a 23-year-old defenceman who is from the Six Nations town of Ohsweken, made his NHL debut with the Ducks this past December. Montour had started the season with Anaheim’s American Hockey League affiliate San Diego Gulls.
He made enough of an impression to spend the remainder of the year with the Ducks, appearing in 27 games and earning six points (two goals, four assists). Montour turned pro in 2015, after spending just one semester at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
VERN FIDDLER – Thanks to an early February trade, Fiddler, a 36-year-old Métis forward, will be participating in this year’s playoffs with Nashville. Fiddler began the current campaign with the New Jersey Devils, who did not qualify for the post-season.
He’s no stranger to the Nashville organization, having spent portions of six years with the Predators earlier in his career. Fiddler, a defensive specialist forward, played 20 games with Nashville this season, scoring once. The Predators are matched up against Tootoo and his Blackhawks in the first round.
T.J. OSHIE – Oshie, a 30-year-old Ojibwe forward, is one of the offensive stars of the Capitals’ roster. He finished in a tie in the Washington goal-scoring department with captain Alex Ovechkin. They had 33 goals each.
While Ovechkin appeared in all 82 of the Capitals’ games, Oshie played 68 contests. The Washington squad is considered one of the favourites in this year’s playoffs as they topped the over-all regular season standings with 118 points. The Capitals’ opening-round opponents are the Toronto Maple Leafs.