Edmonton Oilers' Ethan Bear Dons Special Cree Jersey Ahead of Season Opener

Gabe Zaldivar

A beautiful sight played out on Tuesday night as Edmonton Oiler Ethan Bear skated out onto the ice with his name on the back of his jersey.

Sure, that seems like a normal occurrence. But on this night, during the Battle of Alberta, the 23-year-old rocked Cree syllabics where his name sits.

"It will be an honor to wear this jersey tonight," Bear said Tuesday, via the Oilers official website. "I feel like I will be wearing it for all those Indigenous players who came before me and those Indigenous kids dreaming of playing in the NHL."

The NHL, much like the WNBA, NBA and NWSL, have taken to employ a bubble for its return. Tuesday night’s game against the Calgary Flames represented not only a 4-1 win for Edmonton but another exercise in a truly bizarre world in which we find ourselves.

A poignant moment should have been celebrated in front of thousands of fans. Instead, it was a preliminary contest broadcast on TV.

But, as we all grapple with an ongoing pandemic, we’ll take it. And as teams head to one of two bubbles, one in Edmonton and the other in Toronto, we have a shining moment of goodwill to enjoy.

"As the International Chief for Treaties 6, 7 and 8, and a member of Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, I cannot express my gratitude enough to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League for this most positive act of Reconciliation," Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild said, via NHL.com.

Fans wishing to buy a Bear jersey resplendent in Cree can do so at Pro Am Sports, according to CTV News. The company also rolled out a version of Kailer Yamamoto’s jersey that features Japanese characters on the nameplate.

"The Oilers continue to lead the way with the power of sport to build good relations among our Peoples, Tribes and Nations,” Chief Littlechild said. “Coming from Maskwacis (Bear Hills), in our culture, we have a naming ceremony on which we rely for self-identity and positive self-esteem. It took us many years at the United Nations to secure the right to use our writing system Cree syllabics and to use our language for our own names for communities, places and persons.”

Littlechild goes on to explain the significance and power of what Bear donned as he skated on Tuesday evening.

"The spirit name in Cree for Maskwa is also one of our sacred teachings of courage and that is what the bear represents,” he explained. “Ethan brings all of us great pride with his strength and natural ability to overcome challenges. This is significant and people everywhere will be reminded when they see the syllabics on Ethan's jersey to have courage, be confident and be brave."

There is a great deal of uncertainty for all sports leagues heading into the next few weeks. The NHL reopens officially on Aug. 1. But the Oilers are already off to a great start. 

Comments (1)
No. 1-1

Awesome story!