A new national newspaper based in Winnipeg is out to prove that there's more to Aboriginal hockey in Canada than Jonathan Cheechoo and Jordin Tootoo.
While the new Windtalker Hockey News certainly won't ignore the stories of Cheechoo, a Cree sniper who led the NHL in goals last year, and Tootoo, the first Inuit to play in The Show, the paper will go well beyond the pros to report on up-and-coming junior stars, as well as telling real-life stories of what the spotlight and life on the road can do to young players.
"We'll cover minor hockey to the NHL and everything in between, from college leagues to the Western League, just good old hockey," said Garry McLean, publisher of the new paper, which will ship its first issue to First Nations communities across Canada by mid-December. "Hockey is so big in First Nations communities every winter. Most First Nations have some kind of rec hockey from little ones to seniors and old-timers, but we don't know who's out there. We know the Ted Nolans (New York Islanders head coach), we know the Tootoos, but there are so many other people out there who are role models for First Nations youngsters."
The new paper's editor, Winnipeg journalist Philip Paul-Martin, said he has already planned stories on Corey Courchene, a native of Manitoba's Sagkeeng First Nation who plays for the WHL's Spokane Chiefs, spoken to both male and female Aboriginals who play in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport hockey league, and considered doing "then and now" type stories with the likes of Freddie Sasakamoose, the first Aboriginal player to crack the NHL, which he did with Chicago in 1953, who later battled substance abuse.
"We also want to do stories about what it's like for players to be bileted away from home, where the boys on the bus become your family," said Paul-Martin. "I guess it's just an opportunity for us to communicate and share with our own people what's going on with our young people, not just in terms of hockey but their development as young people as well."
Paul-Martin said when McLean first approached him he was afraid he wouldn't be able to find enough content to fill an Aboriginal hockey newspaper, but has since realized there are so many Aboriginal people involved in the sport in Canada that his mailbox could be filled with story ideas from people across the country in no time.
"We call it the Mocassin Telegraph," joked Paul-Martin. "The people in the community will find us."
McLean said the first issue of Windtalker Hockey News will be distributed by mid-December to First Nations communities and satellite band offices from B.C. to Newfoundland to the Northwest Territories, where the 24-page tabloid will be available for free. He plans two more editions during this winter's hockey season, with a website to follow eventually.