The National Hockey League has quite a few indigenous and American Indian stars. Here’s a quick look at a few guys to watch out for in the upcoming NHL season. From brilliant net-minders and ferocious checkers to lightning quick offensive juggernauts, American Indian and indigenous players are making their mark on an increasingly diverse league.
Carey Price, goalie for the Montreal Canadiens, Ulkatcho First Nation: The 24-year old Price is one of the best goaltenders in the league. Last year Price compiled a record of 38-28, notching 8 shutouts, with a .923 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average. Price became the first Canadiens goalie to win 38 games since Ken Dryden won 41 games in the 1976-77 season. Last year Price set a team record for most games played by a goaltender with 72. In the playoffs, Price’s save percentage and goals against average both improved, but it wasn’t enough to help propel the Canadiens past the TK round. He did manage his third career playoff shutout when he stopped 31 shots against eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins last April 14. From May 10, 2010 to April 16 of 2011, Price played almost 95 minutes in the playoffs without letting in a goal. He is, arguably, the most important player on the team.
Jordin Tootoo, right wing for the Nashville Predators, Inuit: This 28-year old right winger was the NHL’s first Inuit player. He played in 54 games last season, scoring 8 goals and ten assists while also remaining one of the toughest players on the team, and in the league. Relatively small at 5’9” and 197 pounds, Tootoo is known league-wide for delivering devastating hits. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, with 633 as of press time. Last year he upped his game, however, and became one of the team’s unsung heroes in the playoffs, scoring a goal and tallying five assists. Two of those assists were on game winning goals. He managed all this after turning his life around – he checked himself into the NHL Player’s Association’s substance abuse and behavioral health program in December of 2010. The 2011-2012 season should be a continuation on the improvement, both on and off the ice, that Tootoo has made. As of press time, Tootoo was five points shy of 100 for his career
Rene Bourque, left wing for the Calgary Flames, Metis: This 29-year old is becoming one of the best players on the Flames. He played in 80 games last season and scored a whopping 50 points on 27 goals with 23 assists, becoming a key offensive figure for the Flames. Bourque scored a bevy of game winning goals last season, picking specifically on the Nashville Predators. He scored the overtime winner against them in an October 19 game and then netted the final goal in a shootout against them on Feb 1. His monster season led to his signing a 6-year, $20 million dollar deal in the off-season. He made quick work of getting a goal this season – he scored in the first game on October 8. It’s been quite an amazing ride for Bourque, and undrafted player who was signed by the Chicago Blackhawks as a free agent in 2004, where he finally saw his first action in the 2005-06 season. Now he’s not only one of the Flames best players, he’s also played for the Canadian National team at the 2010 IIHF World Championship in Cologne, Germany.
Vernon Fiddler, left wing for the Dallas Stars, Metis: The 31-year old Fiddler played for the had 22 points with six goals with 16 assists in 71 games last season. He ranked 24th in the NHL winning 53.9% of his faceoffs. On November 19 of last season, Fiddler played in his 400th game. He’s signed with the Stars through the 2013-14 season.
TJ Oshie, center for the St. Louis Blues, Ojibwe: Just 24-years old, Oshie scored 34 points for the Blues last season, with 12 goals and 22 assists in just 49 games. Oshie ended his season on an absolute tear, notching 22 points in his last 30 games. He was also only one of two NHL Players (the second was Jarret Stoll of the Los Angeles Kings) with a perfec shootout conversation rate on home ice (he went 3 for 3).
Cody McCormick, center for the Buffalo Sabres, First Nations (Onedia, Chippewa/Ojibway): The 28-years old center had 20 points for the Sabres last season, with eight goals and 12 assists in 81 games. He added another goal during their playoff run. Last year was a career year for McCormick, whose goals, assists, points and penalty minutes were all career bests. He played in his 200th career NHL game last year, and missed only one game all season long.