An Indigenous hockey player hailing from southern Saskatchewan, was recently named the top defenseman in the western conference of his league.
Ethan Bear, a member of the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds, has played hockey for nearly 15 years. The Ochapowace First Nation member was not only drafted in 2015 by the Edmonton Oilers as a fifth round pick, but his play has earned him a chance to win the prestigious Bill Hunter memorial trophy.
“It feels really good. There’s a lot of good players, a lot of good defensemen in the west,” Bear said. “To be named the best… it feels really good. I’m proud of it, just gotta make sure we do good in [the] playoffs.”
The blue-liner earned 70 points in 67 games this year. He scored his 60th career goal, which is the most ever recorded by a Thunderbirds' D-man in a career.
The Thunderbirds are currently matched up against the Tri-City Americans in the WHL playoffs, where they lead the series two games to none. They play games three and four on March 29 and 31 in Kennewick, WA.
“Spectacular” support in Saskatchewan
Bear first laced up his skates with his older brother when he was just four or five years old.
“The first I wanted to learn was the slap shot, so that was the first thing he taught me,” Bear said. “Mainly just my brother and my dad, were the main guys beside me growing up.”
He said he never had issues when it came to getting ice time. Once he wrapped up his studies for the day, he would head to the arena for a skate. He “spent a majority of his childhood” at the rink.
While he was in Saskatchewan, he made it to Bantam AA. At the age of 14, he moved to Kelowna and his ascent into bigger leagues - and bigger cities - began.
He said he gets “spectacular” support whenever hockey takes him back to Saskatchewan.
“It makes it more fun for me, knowing they all care and want to see me succeed,” Bear said. “It pushes a little bit harder every time I play, but at the same time it makes it easier for me moving away and knowing these people are rooting for me.”
On twitter: @BryanEneas
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