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Aboriginal players toil in the NHL


By Sam Laskaris Windspeaker Contributor MONTREAL







It remains to be seen what Carey Price will do for an encore. 

Though he is in the prime of his career, only time will tell if Price, the 28-year-old star goaltender with the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens, can improve upon his performances of a year ago. (Price, a member of British Columbia’s Ulkatcho First Nation, certainly became a household name during the 2014/15 season – if he wasn’t already. 

Besides winning the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player, Price also captured the Vezina Trophy as he was named the NHL’s top goaltender and the Ted Lindsay Award, presented to the league’s most outstanding player as voted on by all the other players in the NHL. 

Price also shared the William M. Jennings Trophy, which goes to the goalie(s) who allowed the fewest goals during the season. 

Price became the first player to win all four of these awards in one season. Glancing at his stats of a year ago, it’s pretty easy to see why Price garnered all the hardware that he did. 

He appeared in 66 games with the Canadiens and posted a 44-16-6 record. He also had a dazzling 1.96 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage. 

While Price is undoubtedly the best Aboriginal player in the NHL these days, he is certainly not the only one. A list of others who were on opening-day rosters for the 2015/16 campaign which kicked off in early October follows.

Kyle Chipchura - Chipchura, a 29-year-old Metis centre, is now in his fourth season with the Arizona Coyotes. Chipchura, who is from Westlock, Alta., is in his 10th pro season. During his NHL days he’s also played for the Anaheim Ducks and Montreal Canadiens. He had 14 points in 70 games with the Coyotes last season.

Jordan Nolan - Nolan, a 26-year-old Ojibwe/Maliseet forward, is a fifth-year pro. He’s a member of the Los Angeles Kings. He’s been fortunate enough to have been on both the Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship squads. Nolan, who is from the Garden River First Nation in northern Ontario, is the youngest son of former NHL player/coach Ted Nolan.

Dwight King - Like Nolan, King, a 26-year-old Metis forward, was on the Kings’ two Stanley Cup winning clubs this decade. But King, who is from Meadow Lake, Sask., began this season on the sidelines. That’s because King broke a bone in his foot during Los Angeles’ final exhibition game in early October. King, a seven-year pro, might not return to the LA lineup until mid-December.

Michael Ferland - Ferland, a 23-year-old Cree from Swan River, Man., appeared in 26 regular season games and nine playoff matches with the Calgary Flames last season. The Flames obviously have high hopes for Ferland, who spent half of last year in the minors (American Hockey League), as they signed him to a two-year, one-way contract during the off-season.

Jordin Tootoo - Tootoo, a 32-year-old forward, is in his 13th pro season but just his second with the New Jersey Devils. Tootoo, who grew up in Nunavut and became the first Inuk to play in the NHL, earned 15 points, including 10 goals, in 68 games with the Devils last season. During his career, Tootoo also suited up for the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings.

Rene Bourque - Bourque, a 33-year-old Metis forward with the Columbus Blue Jackets, bounced around between three NHL organizations last season. Besides Columbus, Bourque, who is from Lac La Biche, Alta., also toiled for Montreal and Anaheim last year. Now in his 12th pro season, Bourque has also had NHL stops in Chicago and Calgary.

T. J. Oshie - Oshie, a 28-year-old Ojibwe forward, is getting used to life in a new NHL city this season. After spending the first seven years of his pro career with the St. Louis Blues, Oshie was traded to the Washington Capitals this past July. Oshie, who is from Mount Vernon, Washington, had 55 points in 72 games last year.

Cody McCormick - McCormick, a 33-year-old forward who has Oneida/Ojibwe/Chippewa ancestry, is still listed as a member of the Buffalo Sabres’ roster. But he hasn’t played in the NHL since this past January as he is dealing with blood clot issues. It’s unclear when the McCormick, a native of London, Ont., will return to the lineup.

Vern Fiddler - The 35-year-old Metis has enjoyed a rather lengthy pro career. He’s now into his 15th pro season and fifth in a row with the Dallas Stars. Fiddler, known primarily for his defensive play, had a career (NHL) high of 13 goals in 80 games with the Stars last season. He’s also had NHL stops in Nashville and with the then Phoenix Coyotes.

Photo caption: Carey Price poses with his four awards he received at the NHL awards on June 24.