WINNIPEG — APTN and Rogers Sportsnet agreed a three-year deal on Friday to broadcast NHL games in Plains Cree.
The first of six games to be broadcast on APTN in the Indigenous language will be when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 19. The next will be when the two teams meet again on Feb. 9 in Winnipeg.
APTN will also broadcast the Calgary Flames' visit to Detroit on Feb. 23, the Vancouver Canucks' trip to Columbus on March 1, Vancouver hosting the Jets on March 15, and the Edmonton Oilers welcoming Anaheim on March 29.
The deal guarantees a minimum of six games will be broadcast in Plains Cree per season.
APTN broadcasted the first nationally televised game in Plains Cree between the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes last season.
Play-by-play announcer Clarence Iron and host Earl Wood were joined by analyst John Chabot as the Hurricanes edged the Habs 2-1 on March 24.
"I think it's the type of event that will help open doors in our relationship with Canada," outgoing APTN CEO Jean La Rose told host Dennis Ward on the television show "Face to Face."
"Some people wrote to us saying, 'I just tuned it in because I just wanted to hear what it sounded like but the guy was so exciting I watched the whole game.'"
Iron and Wood will return in the booth for this season's six games, while Jason Chamakese will co-host the studio show alongside Chabot.
Sportsnet will provide the broadcast production for the six games each season.
"Last year we partnered with APTN to deliver the first ever NHL game in Plains Cree and saw first-hand the positive impact it had uniting hockey fans across the country," said Rob Corte, vice-president, Sportsnet & NHL Productions. "We know that Canada's Indigenous communities have a great passion for hockey and we are excited grow our partnership with APTN to deliver more games over the next three years."
The March 1 broadcast of the Canucks against the Blue Jackets in Plains Cree will coincide with "Rogers Hometown Hockey" visiting Peguis First Nation, Man., where Ron MacLean and Tara Slone will host a live broadcast of the same game on Sportsnet.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2019.