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Cree 'Hockey Night in Canada' Begins In Order To Save Language

Broadcaster Clarence Iron, a member of the Canoe Lake Cree Nation in northern Saskatchewan, is set to deliver the debut of 'Hockey Night in Canada in Cree.'

"It means a lot. We're losing our languages across Canada," said Iron, who'll do play-by-play in Plains Cree for the six national NHL broadcasts. "We're trying to save the Cree language. And it'll help. Even to call a hockey game in Cree, it's a big thing."

The broadcasts will be hosted by Earl Wood and feature analysts John Chabot and Jason Chamakese.

Iron said how he grew up listening to "Hockey Night in Canada" on the radio and idolizing broadcasters Foster Hewitt, Bob Cole and Danny Gallivan.

"I always dreamt to be involved somehow in Hockey Night in Canada. I had dreams, a vision, when I was younger that maybe one day. But I never thought I would be calling play-by-play in Cree. I thought maybe the English version," he said.

"I had the opportunity to see some big players back then," he said.

He attended a residential school, where he preserved his Cree language by talking to himself and speaking to his classmates in secret.

"If I wasn't' playing, I'd be standing outside the arena where there was lots of snow and I'd be standing pretty much in the centre ice area and I'd be calling play-by-play," he said. "Sometimes they could hear me and they used to tell me to shut up because I was a little too loud."

On March 2019, he made history by doing the play-by-play for the first-ever Cree broadcast of an NHL game.

"When we first started, we had a real good feedback," Iron said. "People really liked what I was doing, calling in Cree, especially some of the elders."

"It takes a little while. You've got to remember the names and the numbers. It's not easy. You've got to do a little homework," he said.

"I've been learning and I've been practising even some of the Cree terms like centre ice, defensive faceoff, hat trick, penalty, penalty box, short handed, wrist shot. You have to learn all those words. We had them before, it's just to put them into a game. You have to think fast."

"Hockey Night in Canada in Cree" will air on Jan. 29 (Edmonton at Montreal), March 5 (Vancouver at Toronto), March 26 (Edmonton at Calgary), April 9 (Montreal at Toronto) and April 23 (Toronto at Florida).

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