Sports are his 'roots'

After his Cree mom died when he was seven and his dad moved to Ottawa, Val St. Germain lost touch...

After his Cree mom died when he was seven and his dad moved to Ottawa, Val St. Germain lost touch with his Metis roots and aboriginal culture. (Winnipeg Sun File/Marcel Cretain)

KIRK PENTON -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

Val St. Germain is Metis, and he grew up mostly with a single father.

That's part of who he is, but it's not who he is. In fact, he views himself in much simpler terms.

"I'm just from Ottawa," the affable St. Germain said yesterday. "Grew up in Ottawa in the suburbs, the west end, Westboro. The rough-and-tumble streets of Westboro."

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman is kidding, of course, because Westboro is, as St. Germain describes it, a "yuppie enclave right now. It's not overly mean."

CULTURAL MAKEUP

It's your average Canadian suburb, but St. Germain didn't exactly start out as your average Canadian kid.

His mom, Edna, was a Cree woman from Cold Lake, Alta. His dad, a French-Canadian named Jeff, met his future wife when he was stationed in the Alberta town with the Canadian Air Force.

When Jeff got out of the military, he got a job with the government in the nation's capital, and Val arrived soon after.

Edna, however, passed away when Val, an only child, was just seven years old. In addition to the pain of losing his mother, St. Germain also never really learned about his aboriginal roots.

"Her brothers and sisters, my relatives, are all from Cold Lake, Alta., so being from Cold Lake and being from Ottawa, there's a bit of a gap there," he said. "So we never made it out west growing up, so I kind of missed out on that part."

It's not like St. Germain -- or any of his friends, for that matter -- made a big deal about his cultural makeup, anyway.

"Obviously there's a larger Metis population and native population out west, whether it be Winnipeg or over into Saskatchewan and Alberta," he said. "But out east, not so much, so I never really grew up with it.

"You're a product of your environment often times, so, like I said, I'm just a normal Ottawa guy."

Edna's passing left Jeff to raise Val on his own. His strategy? Put the youngster in as many sports as possible.

"You name it, I probably played it," said St. Germain, who participated in everything from baseball to football to rugby to basketball to volleyball to hockey. "We had something going on almost every night -- practice or games -- so it helped me out growing up and kept me out of trouble.

"It kept me busy. That was a good thing. He did a pretty good job."

St. Germain, who is bilingual, attended McGill University in Montreal, where he starred for the Redmen on the football field and attained his education degree off it.

He made his CFL debut for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on July 9, 1994.

Twelve years later, St. Germain's hometown team, the Ottawa Renegades, went belly up, and the Bombers plucked him in the dispersal draft.

His wife of two years, Heidi, and their 11-month-old daughter, Kallie, made the move west with him this year even though the family had just moved into its new Ottawa home last October.

"We call it our Winnipeg summer home, which is really nice, because the weather here has been great," St. Germain said.

And the Bombers, despite many pre-season predictions, are 5-3 going into Thursday's game against the B.C. Lions. The 6-foot-3, 322-pound St. Germain has played both right and left guard for a battered offensive line that has held its own.

"So far, so good. It's nice to be 5-3," he said. "We let one slip away against Hamilton, but it's looking really good. I'm pretty happy.

"Hopefully we get a win against B.C., and going into the break at 6-3, who would have thought we'd be at this point?"


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