The Wawatay Radio Network (WRN) in Timmins will be broadcasting seven NHL games in the Cree language in the New Year.
The inaugural broadcast will take place Jan. 7 when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last game will be the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Maple Leafs on April 7.
WRN veteran broadcasters George Nakogee and Jules Spence will be calling the games.
The idea for broadcasting NHL games in the Cree language arose out of a conversation in October about Nakogee and Spence’s experience in broadcasting the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“Then the next question was, wow, wouldn’t it be cool to have the NHL on air?” said John Gagnon, Wawatay Native Communications Society’s senior executive assistant.
Nakogee said he would love the opportunity, so Gagnon contacted the NHL at its headquarters in New York City and procured a license allowing them to use the league and teams’ logos.
Nakogee is expected to call the games, as he draws on his experience of calling the 2010 Olympics and hockey tournaments in Sioux Lookout. Colour commentary will be provided by Spence and possibly other guests.
The broadcasters also hope to have someone on the ground at the games. They are trying to get a media pass for Peawanuck’s Sam Hunter, who lives in Toronto, so he may join the media scrum and get sound bytes for the broadcast.
“If not, then we may just get him a ticket and have him call during the game to give us sounds of the crowd and updates,” Gagnon said. “It’s all tentative at this point.”
The broadcasts will also offer programming during the intermissions.
In the first intermission of the first game, Fort Albany’s Mike Metatawabin will be a guest and offer his game analysis.
The second intermission will be a call-in segment, where community members can call and offer their comments and analysis of the game.
Nakogee said he feels confident and proud to be broadcasting the games and feels the project is important in helping to preserve the Cree language.
“Every time we watch TV, it’s in English all the time. Why can’t we translate it if we can?” he said.
“Hockey’s one thing enjoyed by everyone, even our Elders and our kids watch it all the time. They might get excited and say, ‘Hey dad, what are you doing? Turn up the volume on the TV.’ And he’ll say ‘No, let’s turn up the radio.’
“It’s going to be exciting I think.”
A full schedule of games will be released at a later date.
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