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Lord Stanley’s cup travels to Canada’s reserve communities
Thanks to members of the Los Angeles Kings, Aboriginal people in various parts of Canada have had up-close encounters with the Stanley Cup this summer.
A tradition is that each member of the National Hockey League championship squad gets to spend one day with the prized trophy during the off-season.
The roster of the Los Angeles squad, which captured the Stanley Cup in early June, includes two Aboriginal players, Jordan Nolan and Dwight King.
During his day with the Stanley Cup on Aug. 20, Nolan, who is Ojibwe, took the trophy to his hometown, the Garden River First Nation in northern Ontario.
Five days earlier, King, who is Métis, had brought the famous mug to the Flying Dust First Nation, located just northeast of Meadow Lake, the small Saskatchewan city he is from.
And although he is not Aboriginal, Kings’ defenceman Willie Mitchell spent part of his day with the cup, Aug. 12, celebrating on the Namgis First Nation in British Columbia, near his hometown of Port McNeill.
Nolan’s celebration attracted about 500 people, including his father Ted, a former NHL player and coach.
“It was a really exciting day for the community,” said Craig Sayers, a councillor with the Garden River First Nation and Jordan Nolan’s first cousin. “You could see the pride in everybody.”
The day started off with a pancake breakfast. During the day, the 23-year-old Stanley Cup champion addressed a pair of crowds, first the youth from the community and later on the elders.
Nolan also visited the Garden River bridge, which has the words ‘This Is Indian Land’ inscribed on it. He took numerous photos with the cup on the bridge.
Later that afternoon, Nolan took the cup to his parents’ house for a private party.
Sayers was thrilled his cousin brought the trophy to his First Nation.
“He’s a living role model from Garden River,” Sayers said. “It’s the hardest hockey tournament to win in the world. He climbed atop the mountain.”
Sayers was not able to see any of Nolan’s playoff games in person this past season, but he was one of about 25 people from Garden River who ventured to Detroit to watch the Kings in a regular season contest. As it turned out, Nolan was a healthy scratch for that match.
“It was the one game they didn’t play him,” Sayers said.
Nolan had started this past season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs. The Kings called him up to the NHL in February, where he remained for the rest of the season. Nolan had four points in 26 regular season games with the Kings. He added a pair of points in 20 playoff matches.
Like Nolan, King, who is also 23, was also called up to Kings via the Monarchs in February. He appeared in 27 regular season matches and earned 14 points, including five goals. He added eight points in 20 post-season contests.
King spent about half an hour with the cup at the arena on the Flying Dust First Nation. He came to the community after three hours of signing autographs and posing for pictures in Meadow Lake.
“By then he was kind of whipped and tired,” said Flying Dust First Nation Chief Jim Norman, who is also King’s uncle. “We didn’t want to keep him much longer.”
Afterwards King took the cup to a family dinner and celebration in nearby Bear Lake, the Métis community where his parents live.
Though brief, Norman said the celebration on the Flying Dust First Nation was a thrill for all.
“It was a lot of excitement,” he said. “I think (members of the community) were amazed. I talked to some of them who were just honoured to have him here. Here was a guy they watch and follow on television and he was here with them.”
As for Mitchell, a 35-year-old defenceman, though he’s not Aboriginal he felt it was important to bring the cup to his roots.
“He was born and raised in this area,” said Namgis First Nation Chief Bill Cranmer.
Mitchell arrived in the First Nation community, located in Alert Bay, via a helicopter. He joined a standing room only crowd of more than 1,000 people in the Namgis First Nation Big House.
“Crowd control was our hardest job,” Cranmer said. “But he allowed everybody to get close to him.”
Mitchell was also presented with an Aboriginal vest. He also donned a headdress and danced with members of the Namgis community.
Mitchell was also bestowed with an Aboriginal name—Xanyadzam—which translates into somebody that is amazing.
“Our people are great hockey fans,” Cranmer said of those in his community. “A bunch of them were cheering for the Vancouver Canucks in the playoffs. But when they got beat out they were cheering for Willie Mitchell.”
Mitchell, who has been a pro for 13 years, spent four seasons with the Canucks, from 2006 through 2010. This past year marked his second with the Kings.
Mitchell registered 24 points in 76 regular season games this past season. He added three more points in 20 playoff appearances.
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