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

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations councillor says ‘Hereditary chiefs have the ultimate power’

Ahousaht future hereditary chief Jaiden George explains Indigenous governance.

Major renovations underway at Ucluelet Co-op

“People are going to be really pleased with what they see.”

Ucluelet pursues $8M water upgrade

Project aims to expand water capacity while tackling town’s brown water woes.

A.W. Neill removed from Port Alberni elementary school

School District 70 board votes to retain the name Ucluelet Secondary School

Community mourns West Coast’s kind and generous Rita Driver

“She touched a lot of people’s lives and hearts.”

VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard wins first Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP award

Leonard scored 30 points and hit eight 3-pointers to lead Team LeBron to a 157-155 victory

Amtrak warns of delays as railways from Seattle to B.C. blocked by Wet’suwet’en supporters

Coastal GasLink said it’s signed benefits agreements with all 20 elected band councils along pipeline route

Federal emergency group meets on pipeline protests as rail blockades continue

There’s mounting political pressure for Trudeau to put an end to the blockades

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

B.C. man released from quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Because Spencer Fehrenbacher has American citzensip, he was evacuated by the U.S.

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

Most Read