SUN Hockey Pool

Hall of Famer proud of roots

ADAM WAZNY -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

He's got six Stanley Cup rings and is enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but don't compare him to Fred Sasakamoose, George Armstrong or Jim Neilson.

No, according to Bryan Trottier, he's not even in the same league as those former aboriginal NHL players.

"I might have been an inspiration and maybe there's a little bit of recognition there, but I don't think I can be considered a barrier breaker like those guys," he said yesterday.

The former New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins great was in town to help jump start the Legends and Legacies hockey game, an exhibition featuring aboriginal ex-NHL stars and the Winnipeg Jets alumni.

The event will be held Jan. 12 at the MTS Centre.

And while Trottier, whose grandparents were Cree Metis and Chippewa, will concede his importance to youngsters in the aboriginal community, he doesn't want to be considered among the previously mentioned names.

Oddly, he feels like he doesn't deserve the company.

"I didn't grow up on a reserve, so I didn't have some of those challenges," he said. "But I did grow up with an aboriginal background. I was talked to in Cree and Chippewa until about the age of 10, and I didn't understand a word. I just knew a few sayings, and there was a whole bunch of teasing along the way.

"I understand a little bit more of it now."

It might be because of that fact -- the fact Trottier didn't totally and fully embrace his roots growing up in Val Marie, Sask. -- that he's so entrenched in what positive aboriginal role models can offer youngsters in the community these days.

Trottier shakes his head when he thinks about the current state of aboriginal youth -- plus the bias and discrimination they have to deal with.

"You just don't know what they're faced with every day," he said. "Every challenge is different, and until you actually stand in their shoes, it's difficult to understand. Kids often want the easy way instead of the hard way.

"The hard way is more beneficial, the reward, that much greater."

Whether it's visiting remote reserves and drum-dancing with the locals, hugging abused children, or feasting with the elders, Trottier recognizes the affect his heritage has had on people.

That impact has hit Trottier again, too, especially now that his professional career is over.

"I knew somewhere down the road I would have an opportunity to get back into the community," he said. "I get inspired when I leave friendship centres or schools that I visit, because I know your roots will take you back. I know someday I'll get back to Ireland, too.

"This is enriching for me, and I'm really enjoying the aboriginal community again. We are a tremendously talented group of people."

Tickets for the Legends and Legacies game are $15 and available at Ticketmaster.

Proceeds of the event will go to the White Buffalo Spiritual Society, a non-profit group aimed at keeping aboriginal children connected with their heritage through social, cultural and recreational programs.


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