The Current

Broadcaster who held onto his language through residential school to call NHL game in Cree

Clarence Iron will call Sunday's game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes in Plains Cree on APTN.

Clarence Iron will call game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes

Clarence Iron hosts in his Plains Cree language on the Pinehouse Sask. Radio station CFNK 89.9 FM. He will be calling play-by-play on the APTN broadcast of the NHL game Sunday evening. (Clarence Iron/Facebook)

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This Sunday night, hockey fans will have a chance to hear something historic. For the first time, an NHL game will be called on APTN in Plains Cree.

Clarence Iron, a broadcaster with 20 years of experience, was chosen to call the game.

Raised in the Canoe Lake Cree First Nation, Iron has spoken Plains Cree all his life and held on to his language during his time in residential school by inventing an imaginary friend. 

"A lot of people ask me: 'How did you manage to preserve your Cree?' Well you know what? It sounds funny but I did talk to myself quite a bit, as if somebody was there," he told The Current's  guest host Megan Williams.

He always made sure no one was around when he was practicing, "otherwise they'd think I'm nuts," he laughed.  

Sunday's game will be the first nationally televised NHL game called in Plains Cree 0:54

Fast forward to today. Iron no longer feels afraid to speak Cree in public. And now, he'll be speaking and broadcasting his language, loud and clear across the country.

"Things have changed. Now we are being set free. We can speak our language anywhere at all. I'm not scared to speak Cree in front of a crowd or the whole nation," he said. 

Iron said that while many people can understand Cree, not as many people actively speak it. He hopes that bringing out the language like this will help preserve it for future generations.

"Thinking of our Indigenous people around the nation, they deserve something like this. We need to showcase our talents," he said.

Iron said he isn't nervous to call Sunday's game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Carolina Hurricanes. He just has some memorization do to.

"It's just a matter of knowing the players and their numbers... I've still got a few days here," he said with a laugh.

You can catch Clarence Iron calling the game in Plains Cree, on Sunday, March 24, as the Canadiens meet the Hurricanes on APTN at 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Mac Cameron. Produced by Allie Jaynes.