Spot­light on an un­sung role in Canada’s Game

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - FRONT PAGE - Kash­mala Fida metro | Ed­mon­ton

It was a mis­sion three years in the mak­ing — so when Naim Car­di­nal fi­nally got his hands on the rookie card of ev­ery In­dige­nous player to ever skate in the NHL, 70 in all, he snapped a photo and tweeted it out.

Since that tweet a week ago, his photo has gen­er­ated more than a thou­sand likes and a con­ver­sa­tion about the un­sung role In­dige­nous ath­letes have played in build­ing Canada’s game.

“Peo­ple are see­ing the play­ers in my col­lec­tion and go­ing, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that guy is In­dige­nous and this guy was In­dige­nous,’ so this has cre­ated those kind of con­ver­sa­tions,” said Car­di­nal, an In­dige­nous com­mu­nity en­gage­ment ad­vi­sor at Norquest Univer­sity.

Car­di­nal based his col­lec­tion on the list cu­rated by an on­line sports site called Na­tive Hockey.

In­cluded in his col­lec­tion? Oil­ers goal­tend­ing great Grant Fuhr, who has In­dige­nous her­itage, and T.J. Oshie, the cur­rent right-winger for the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals, who is Ojibwe.

“Talk­ing to my wife and dad, they made a good point,” Car­di­nal said, “that a lot of these play­ers never got rec­og­nized for be­ing an In­dige­nous per­son in the NHL during their ca­reers, and peo­ple are re­ally able to see that now.”

He hopes his col­lec­tion helps give their ca­reers and ac­com­plish­ments the recog­ni­tion they de­served.

“I think that’s what’s most im­por­tant,” he said.

Car­di­nal, 36, started col­lect­ing when he was eight years old. A mem­ber of the Tall­cree First Na­tion, he de­cided to fo­cus on In­dige­nous play­ers start­ing in 2014.

Not ev­ery player had a rookie card, and many who did weren’t easy to find. He scoured eBay, flea mar­kets and card shops.

The hard­est card was Ted Hodgson, who played four games for the Bos­ton Bru­ins during the 1966-67 sea­son. After two years of hunt­ing, Car­di­nal even­tu­ally re­sorted to buy­ing a set of post­cards for the en­tire team on­line.

Hockey is hugely pop­u­lar in the In­dige­nous com­mu­nity, Car­di­nal said, and he hopes his col­lec­tion helps in­spires kids who love the sport.

There are cur­rently eight In­dige­nous play­ers in the NHL, ac­cord­ing to the list.

KasH­maLa fida/mEtro

Naim car­di­nal

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