Announcer hopes to breathe life into Plains Cree language with hockey broadcasts

Clarence Iron hopes that the six games on APTN will help First Nations people across Canada reconnect with their Indigenous language

Clarence Iron believes he’s on a divine mission to revitalize the Plains Cree language through hockey.

He’ll be the play-by-play announcer with host Earl Wood and analyst John Chabot this Sunday when APTN televises the Winnipeg Jets versus Chicago Blackhawks in the first of six games to be broadcast in Plains Cree this season.

“I’ve been given an opportunity because I changed my life around, I gave my life to God, and now He’s giving me a new life and that’s why I’m very excited to be doing this,” said Iron, who has overcome problems with alcohol and drugs. “Knowing that this is for the Aboriginal people to try and revitalize this language.

“I’ve been given another chance at life, that’s why I’m so excited. I’m not scared to go and do this job.”

Iron hopes that the six games on APTN will help First Nations people across Canada reconnect with their Indigenous language after residential schools almost wiped them out. Iron, who attended Beauval Indian Residential School in northern Saskatchewan, has seen first hand how the mandatory use of English and the systematic oppression of Indigenous culture has led to many First Nations people losing their connection with their languages.

READ MORE: APTN to broadcast hockey games in Plains Cree starting with Jets at Blackhawks

“There’s still lots of people that understand, they cannot speak, but they understand,” Iron said in a phone interview from Pinehouse, Sask., adding that Plains Cree is closely related to other dialects. “They could learn very quickly to speak it. In this sense of having the language in any capacity, as long as you’re speaking Cree, people are listening and they’re excited.

“There’s been a lot of talk of people just wanting to listen to this game coming up on Sunday. So people are very excited, they’re just waiting. They’re hungry. They’re excited.”

APTN and Rogers Sportsnet agreed a three-year deal on Dec. 13 to broadcast NHL games in Plains Cree. After Sunday’s game, APTN will next broadcast in Plains Cree when the Jets and Blackhawks meet again on Feb. 9 in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg-based network will also broadcast the Calgary Flames’ visit to Detroit on Feb. 23, the Vancouver Canucks’ trip to Columbus on March 1, Vancouver hosting the Jets on March 15, and the Edmonton Oilers welcoming Anaheim on March 29. The deal guarantees a minimum of six games will be broadcast in Plains Cree per season.

APTN broadcasted the first nationally televised game in Plains Cree between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes last season. Iron, Wood and Chabot all had the call as the Hurricanes edged the Habs 2-1 on March 24.

It was a childhood dream come true for Iron, who grew up idolizing legendary Canadiens play-by-play announcer Danny Gallivan. In particular, Iron has tried to emulate Gallivan’s musical style of speaking.

“I tried to imitate him a little bit in that sense, it’s actually similar between Cree and English,” Iron said.

“To try and imitate Danny Gallivan takes a little skill, but that’s how I’d like to sound to make the hockey exciting,” he added with a laugh.

Developing his own broadcasting style has been one challenge for Iron, but adapting Plains Cree to hockey has been another one altogether. It’s a very descriptive language, so learning how fit all the possible adjectives to describe a play has taken some practice.

“When you’re speaking the Cree language you describe the thing, whatever it is, but there is also a name to it,” Iron said. “We have a word for puck, but we also say that it’s black and flat.

“Now if you’re going to describe it, it’s a very long way of describing. It’s something that’s round and flat and slides around something that you slap around with a stick.”

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: Northern Health assuring public it has declared no public exposure events or outbreaks

As of Sept. 17, there are 241 cases in the Northern Health Authority region

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

Northern Health records 1st fatality due to COVID-19

Six people died from the novel coronavirus on the weekend, health officials confirm

QUIZ: A celebration of apples

September is the start of the apple harvest

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read