By Doug Cuthand, The Starphoenix
The Winter Olympics have an unprecedented aboriginal content this year in athletes, coaching and sponsorship.
Canada has four athletes with First Nations and aboriginal connections. The starting goalie for Team Canada is Carey Price, who is from the Ulkatcho First Nation in west-central British Columbia. His mother, Lynda, is the former chief of the First Nation.
Price is the goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and has played in NHL all-star games in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He also was on the 2007 team that won the world junior championship. Previously his team won silver at the under-18 world tournament in 2005.
Caroline Calve, a veteran snowboarder who also competed in the 2010 Games in Vancouver, is part Algonquin on her father's side. She is a role model and supporter of the First Nations Snowboard Team, and works with aboriginal youth to help them excel in the sport. In December 2011, she won the world cup giant slalom in Italy.
Jesse Cockney is an Inuit cross-country skier from Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories. When he was seven, his family moved to Canmore, Alta. Despite the distance away from his roots, his father Angus told him the stories and culture of his people. Angus won two gold medals at the Canada Winter Games in 1975, and in 1988 he was part of a team that skied to the North Pole.
Cockney won four medals - three gold and a bronze - at the Canada Winter Games in Halifax in 2011. After a brief hiatus he returned to skiing and made the Canadian team for the Sochi Games.
Spencer O' Brien is one of Canada's top snowboarders and was considered a medal contender for Canada. However, one of the Olympics most touching moments came when a distraught O' Brien wept following her loss in the slopestyle final. She felt that she let Canada down. Of course she didn't let the country down - she competed with class and style and the country rallied to her support.
O'Brien is a role model for her people. She is a Haida from Alert Bay on Vancouver Island. She is committed to her sport and her people. She is part of the Nike 57 program that promotes health and wellness in aboriginal communities. She is also a supporter of the First Nations Snowboard Team. During the off-season she works on her father's fishing boat.
The U.S. men's hockey team won a shootout with the Russian team thanks to T.J. Oshie, an Ojibway from Minnesota who plays for the St. Louis Blues. He was named Timothy after his dad, so T.J. stands for Timothy Junior. He scored four goals in the shootout and led his team to victory against the Russians. Oshie played for the Fighting Sioux at the University of
North Dakota before signing with the Blues.
The surprise Olympian is Ted Nolan from the Garden River First Nation near Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who coached the Latvian national team. Nolan has had a colourful career in the NHL as an assistant coach and coach of various teams. As head coach of the Buffalo Sabres, he received the Jack Adams Award as the top coach in the NHL.
In 2011, he became head coach of the Latvian men's national hockey team and qualified the team for the Olympics. Meanwhile, he was called back by the Sabres to become the acting head coach. He took the job with the proviso that he could coach the Latvian team in the Olympics.
And coach he did, giving Canada a near-death experience.
His team left it all on the ice. If they had won, I doubt that they had any gas left for the next game. The Latvians' valiant effort speaks to their commitment to Nolan and his leadership.
Meanwhile in northern Alberta, Vern Janvier, chief of the Chipewyan Prairie Dene and owner of oilfield contracting company CP Services, decided to sponsor the Jamaican bobsled team. He committed his company to $35,000 a year for four years.
His company logo is now on the team's tracksuits. Unfortunately, the Jamaicans have not done so well. Maybe next time.
Every year, it seems that our people become more involved in sports and business. Now we are seeing our people emerge on the international stage.