Throughout December, the NHL is spotlighting players and alumni of indigenous descent. We asked these men and women to reflect on how their indigenous heritage has influenced their identity within hockey.
Today, Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic, who is of Metis descent, discusses how he and his wife were inspired by Gord Downie, the lead singer of The Tragically Hip who died in 2017, to start The Northern Project.
Like millions of Canadians, I have always been a fan of Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip.
Their songs have been staples in locker rooms and arenas all across our great nation for decades and the band has been able to give their fans a unique sense of Canadian pride thanks to their incredible songwriting and passion for our country.
However, being Metis, it was the work Gord did in his final few years that really resonated with me.
He dedicated himself to working alongside the Canadian indigenous community, using his platform to give a voice and bring awareness to issues he felt were important for Canadians to understand.
That work inspired me and my wife Stephanie to start the Northern Project. It is an initiative that provides indigenous children from the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon the opportunity to come to Calgary, go behind the scenes with me in the 'Saddledome, and take in a game. We started the program with the hopes of reaching and connecting with communities in the North and putting a program in place that can unite all Canadians.
Video: The Hamonics brought Tarek and his uncle to Calgary
Working in partnership with Hockey North, coaches, volunteers and teachers are encouraged to nominate children who they feel are deserving of this experience. Stephanie and I then work with the Flames Foundation to select recipients and get to work, getting them airfare, hotels, and spending money so they can have a stress-free weekend and truly enjoy the city.
Being able to bring these children and their families to Calgary is an absolute joy for my family and we hope it provides them with light and hope for the future.
Hockey is important -- I've been blessed to be able to play it for a living and I take that opportunity very seriously -- but life is a lot bigger than hockey. Being able to give back to my community and help others who may be going through tough times puts so much into perspective. I'm a firm believer that you get so you can give, and The Northern Project is a way for my family to give back to our roots.
I am so proud of my Metis heritage and my family, and I look forward to continuing The Northern Project throughout my career.