Ethan Bear discusses early impact on Canucks, long term impact on First Nations hockey
Photo credit:© Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
5 months ago
He’s only been a Canuck for just over a month, but defenceman Ethan Bear is quickly becoming a fan favourite in Vancouver for his work both on the ice and off of it.
Bear appeared on After Hours with Scott Oake after the Canucks’ 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night. The newest Canuck discussed his arrival in Vancouver and encouraging a generation of First Nations kids to play hockey.
Bear’s debut season with the Canucks has paid off immediate dividends on the blue line, providing strong support defensively and adding five points in his first 16 games. And after being a healthy scratch to start the season for the Hurricanes before his eventual trade, Bear feels his game is clicking right into place.
“I think it’s great, obviously haven’t played in a while before I came here, and I had a lot of motivation,” Bear said. “I was just making sure I worked hard and took care of myself away from the rink so when I got a chance when I came here, I’d be ready to go and play my best. I think I’ve done a good job of that so far.”
Bear’s already made a crucial impact on the scoreboard as well, particularly with his game-winner against the defending Cup champion Avalanche recently.
“That was a very special feeling. I pride myself on a good shot, and any time you score a big goal to help the team win, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Bear said.
“It took a long time to be here so hopefully I can just keep things going.”
But his success has a much farther-reaching impact beyond just Vancouver. Bear is a proud representative of the Ochapowace Nation, a Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, and is one of just a few First Nations players active in the NHL today. But the 25-year-old is hoping he can help inspire more to reach hockey’s highest level.
“It’s definitely something I’d love to help improve, it’s definitely a low number. But at the end of the day, it’s the best league in the world and that just shows how hard it is to make it,” Bear said. “There are players from all over the world, and there’s only 800, 900 spots. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not.
“I encourage kids to keep pushing, and definitely Indigenous kids if they have any questions, I’m there for them and support them any way I can because I know how hard it is.”
Bear’s impact will only grow as he becomes a more and more valuable piece of the Canucks’ core, and he knows that in British Columbia that spotlight will go a long way.
“It’s fun, it’s a pleasure, it’s definitely something that I take pride in. I work towards every day just trying to improve as a person and improve as a hockey player. Every time I’m out there, I just want to play my heart out because I have fun and I enjoy it.
“I love the game, that’s why I do it.”
But like a lot of fans, Bear is still waiting for an opportunity to wear a Canucks jersey with his Cree name stitched onto it. Bear has been able to use it once in an exhibition game for the Oilers but has yet to get the NHL’s permission to wear it in a regular season game since the league requires English spellings.
Bear is hopeful he’ll get that chance sometime as a Canuck.
“I would love to have that opportunity. If the NHL allows it, I’d love to,” Bear said. “Maybe just wear it in warm-ups or wear it one game, whatever it may be. I’d love to do it and you know, it’s nice to do something different every once in a while.”
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