“Don’t be afraid to go anywhere new. Go and play for other teams. Play for a higher level. Don’t be scared and be yourself and go and play. It’s nothing to be afraid of.”
Those were Ethan Bear’s words of encouragement to young Indigenous hockey players after his first game with the Edmonton Oilers last week.
He took his debut lap around the ice, according to NHL tradition, on his own March 1 in a game against the Nashville Predators.
“It was a cool experience…. You only get to do it once, so it was pretty special,” he told Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM.
Bear, who is originally from Ochapowace First Nation, Sask., was happy his family, including his parents, made the game for his first time on the ice in the NHL. He comes to the Oilers from the Bakersfield Condors, the Oilers' AHL affiliate.
He said there were no big surprises playing at the higher level, but did say the atmosphere was more intense with 20,000 fans of the Oilers watching on, as compared to the 5,000 a Condors game would draw.
And the pace of the game was faster.
Bear admitted to a few more nerves than usual.
But his fellow players made things easy for him by being so inclusive, which allowed him to go out and enjoy himself on the ice.