Indigenous hockey cards shed light on indigenous players


Gene J. Puskar/AP File

New York Islanders coach Ted Nolan talks to his players during a timeout at the end of the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh on Thursday, November 15, 2007. his NHL debut. Better late than never, especially since it’s a nod to his indigenous heritage.

Ted Nolan finally got his rookie card, more than 40 years after his NHL debut. Better late than never, especially since it’s a nod to his indigenous heritage.

This month, Upper Deck introduced the First Nations Rookie Cards Pack, which features eight First Nations hockey players who didn’t get the opportunity the first time around. This comes at a time when the influence of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples on the sport is growing. .

“It’s like someone calls you 40 years after your 18th birthday and says, ‘Hey, you’re turning 18,'” Nolan said. “It wasn’t as exciting as it could have been if I actually got it when I was a rookie, but still I’m honored to get it, especially with the root component, because (for) a lot to our kids representation really matters, and the more kids see what’s going on, they can also dream.”

It was the hope of indigenous map collector Naim Cardinal, who first pitched the idea at a trade show a few years ago. There were some players missing from his collection that he thought deserved their due.

“We thought it was an interesting concept,” said Upper Deck senior marketing manager Paul Nguyen. “So we asked other people in the hockey community to see if there was a demand for such a set, and we heard that there is.”

The mostly Indigenous group worked to narrow down the options for players who had never had an officially licensed NHL trading card before. The result was a set featuring Nolan, Dan Frawley, Jason Simon, Bill Lecaine, Rocky Trotier, Victor Mercredi, Danny Hodgson and Johnny Harms.

The cards, including the logo on each card, were designed by Sioux artist Jacob Alexis Alexis Nakota, with Cardinal writing content on the back that highlights the player’s native heritage and family history.

Nolan’s card, which shows him in the Detroit Red Wings uniform, indicates that he is Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) from the Garden River Native people in Ontario, and he not only played in the NHL for the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins but also became a successful coach. and has two sons who made it into the league, Jordan and Brandon.

Having a rookie card like his sons has is a cool thing for Nolan, who said, “It’s like a family business.” Taking it one step further, the cards will not be for sale, but rather distributed at the 3NOLANS First Nation Hockey School and other Indigenous hockey camps and events.

Nolan hopes the display of the cards will affect children in the same way that Stan Jonathan, Gary Sargent and Jimmy Neilson viewed him when he was growing up.

“You can walk around the school the next day and be very proud of these gentlemen (because), although we did not know them, they were very much like you,” he said. “Now you can not only talk about it. You can actually show pictures that it actually happened.”

Hockey historians in recent months and years have begun to delve deeper into the role of some of the early non-white hockey pioneers, including Native American quarterback Tuffy Abel and Henry Elmer “Buddy” Maracle.

As more details are revealed about the history of boarding schools in Canada that pushed Indigenous children to assimilate into white culture from the 19th century to the 1970s, Nolan is proud to be an example of an athlete who embraces his Indigenous heritage.

“We had a lot of our seniors and a lot of our bosses who showed us the way, and especially boarding school survivors and how hard they fought to keep who we are,” said Nolan, who coached six NHL divisions. . seasons and won the Jack Adams Coach of the Year Award in 1996-97. “I’m just another part of it, I’m trying to build on the legacy of our ancestors and make the next generation even stronger than this generation.”

Nguyen said this set of maps has been in development for years and noted that it comes at a good time given the ongoing dialogue, especially in Canada, about the treatment of indigenous peoples and what can be done now to learn from it.

“This is a continuation of the conversation with everyone, and not just lying,” he said. “It puts it in a really good light, where people can have that conversation.”

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