'It's going to be fabulous': Plains Cree host looks forward to historic NHL broadcast

Earl Wood says he can't wait to be part of a historic broadcast of an NHL game in the Plains Cree language. The match between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes will air on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network on Sunday.

Earl Wood co-hosting Rogers Hometown Hockey in Cree on Sunday

Earl Wood will host the studio show for the Rogers Hometown Hockey broadcast in Plains Cree on Sunday. (Submitted by APTN)

Earl Wood's voice booms as he talks about the historic NHL broadcast he'll be co-hosting in the Plains Cree language Sunday.

"First time ever, ladies and gentlemen, Rogers Hometown Hockey presented in Cree!" he exclaimed in both English and Cree during an interview.

The game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes will air on Rogers Hometown Hockey on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network Sunday at 5 p.m. MT.

Sportsnet and APTN say it will be the first NHL game ever broadcast in a Cree language.

"It's a truly amazing time for the Indigenous people, that our language is going to be presented on such a format," Wood said.

Wood comes from Saddle Lake, Alta., and is one of the original founders of the award-winning Northern Cree Singers, which is referred to by some as the "Indigenous Rolling Stones."

He will host the studio show alongside game analyst and NHL alumnus John Chabot, while Saskatchewan broadcaster Clarence Iron will do the play-by-play commentary. The show will be broadcast from APTN's studio in Winnipeg.

'Beautiful dance' of languages

Wood said his team is already working on Cree translations for some of the more obscure hockey terms. The commentary will include English as well as Cree, he added.

"I think it'll be a beautiful dance, and beautiful together with the English and Cree language," he said.

"I think it's going to make for an interesting vibratory energy and presentation, and I think that stands as a testament to the reconciliation process. It's going to be fabulous."

Wood said he sees Sunday's broadcast as a first step for Indigenous languages to be presented to a broader audience.

"The many different Indigenous languages, they're very, very beautiful. They each have so much energy and they each have so much knowledge and beauty and coherency to them," he said.

"I think it's going to be a good gateway for all the languages to have opportunities to be heard and to be appreciated by all."

It's not the first time an NHL game has been presented in languages other than English and French. For example, Hockey Night in Canada began broadcasting in Punjabi in 2008, and CBC North broadcasters called an NHL game in Inuktitut during Hockey Day in Canada in 2010.

CBC North's Inuktitut-language play-by-play of the midget boys hockey semifinals at the 2018 Arctic Winter Games has been nominated for a Radio Television Digital News Association regional award this year.

Written by Donna Lee, with files from Mark Hadlari and The Canadian Press