The Edmonton Oilers are honoured to host a Celebration of First Nations Hockey on March 30 as the Oilers take on the New York Rangers. The celebration coincides with the end of the final national event of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), held in Edmonton from March 27 to 30, 2014.
The TRC was established to educate Canadians about the history and ongoing legacy of Indian Residential Schools. Thousands of Aboriginal children in Alberta were taken from their families and sent to schools which were funded by the federal government and run by the churches. While it was a difficult era for First Nations children and their families, hockey soon emerged as a sport that could bridge barriers and provide a positive experience in an otherwise dark time.
“The Edmonton Oilers have a special connection with our many fans and supporters throughout First Nations communities in Oil Country,” said Patrick LaForge, Oilers President & COO. “In acknowledging this terrible chapter in our country’s history, we’re also proud to celebrate hockey as a beacon of light and hope for many First Nations people in our province and across Canada.”
In-game, the Oilers Celebration of First Nations Hockey will commence with a special rendition of the Canadian Anthem performed by Asani, an award-winning Aboriginal women’s trio from Edmonton. Three distinguished First Nations leaders will then perform a ceremonial puck-drop – Chief Wilton Littlechild, Commissioner of the TRC, Mr. Fred Sasakamoose, the trailblazing, first Canadian of First Nations descent to play in the National Hockey League, and Mr. Ted Hodgson, series-winning goal scorer for the 1966 Edmonton Oil Kings Memorial Cup Champion team and First Nations sport advocate.
Other in-game elements will include an honour guard of former residential school hockey players and their descendants, and a group of First Nations youth hockey players on the ice.
Off the ice, the Oilers have committed to securing 20 spots at the Oilers Hockey School every summer specifically for First Nations youth from across Oil Country. The Oilers are also committed to collaborating with interested partners for better access to hockey in First Nations communities.
Through the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation, the Oilers have been active in supporting numerous initiatives working on issues affecting First Nations people. This includes Inner City High School in Edmonton, the Boyle Street Community Services Water Wings program and the YouCan Youth Services program.
“On behalf of the TRC and First Nations people, we would like to thank the Edmonton Oilers for their support and leadership,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild, a former U of A Golden Bears left winger. “Hockey was a common thread of positive experience for hundreds of residential school survivors, including me. The Oilers understand that, and they’re committed to making a difference in the lives of today’s First Nations youth.
The TRC’s Alberta National Event is open to anyone interested in attending and will be held at the Shaw Conference Centre from March 27 – 30. Please visit trc.ca for a copy of the program. Limited tickets remain for the Oilers Celebration of First Nations Hockey on March 30 at Rexall Place. To secure your seats, please visit edmontonoilers.com.