Manitoba's Brady Keeper makes NHL debut

A Manitoba hockey player from Pimicikamak Cree Nation had a fairytale start to his NHL career Thursday night.

22-year-old from Pimicikamak Cree Nation named third star in first game

Brady Keeper, from Pimicikamak Cree Nation, Man., made his NHL debut with the Florida Panthers Thursday night. (Photo courtesy of NHLPA)

A Manitoba hockey player from Pimicikamak Cree Nation had a fairytale start to his NHL career Thursday night in Ottawa.

Brady Keeper, who played with the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard, was named third star in his first game with the Florida Panthers.

The Panthers beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2.

With his family in the stands, Keeper played 12:40 and had a couple of great chances late in the third as well as a couple of big hits.

"It's a dream come true," said Keeper. "I've got no words to explain how I feel. I'm just happy my parents and my whole family came down and got to see me play."

Brady Keeper, 22, signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers Monday. (Hockey East Association)

The 22-year-old undrafted defenceman from the University of Maine signed with the Panthers Monday, making him the first person from the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to make it to the NHL.

'It means a lot'

Prior to the start of the game, the Senators welcomed members of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities and held a ceremonial puck drop. Keeper was invited to take the faceoff to commemorate the event.

"It means a lot," Keeper said of taking the faceoff. "I didn't know that was going on, but it was pretty cool I got the chance to take the faceoff. The guys yelled at me and told me to come take the faceoff so that was pretty special."

Keeper shakes hands with Ottawa's Mark Borowiecki following the ceremonial puck drop as Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Natan Obed and Metis National Council president Clement Chartier look on. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Panthers' head coach Bob Boughner said Keeper performed well under pressure during his time on the ice.

"Everyone remembers their first game and how many nerves you have and how tough it is to focus, but he was pretty poised," he said.

"It's a great story and we're really happy for him."

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With files from The Canadian Press