EDMONTON, AB - Throughout the entirety of Saturday's national anthem, Ethan Bear rocked back and forth on the Oilers bench, eyes closed, with a calming smile on his face.
The defenceman from the Ochapowace First Nation was soothed to the voice of 14-year-old Kiya Bruno of Samson Cree Nation, who sang 'O Canada' in both Cree and English at Rogers Place.
"Honestly, being First Nations and playing in the NHL, you never think you're going to hear that or get the opportunity," Bear said following Monday's practice.
"It was a pretty cool experience, especially because I'm playing and hearing it first-hand. I loved it."
The multilingual performance was broadcasted coast-to-coast as part of Hockey Day in Canada celebrating the North and Indigenous peoples.
"Being in Edmonton and with there being so many reservations around and a lot of Oilers fans being First Nations people, I bet it hit home for a lot of us."
Bear takes on extra burden as a leader for First Nations in the NHL - a role he expected and embraced after following a path first forged by a handful of Indigenous players like Jordin Tootoo long before the 22-year-old made his debut on March 1, 2017 with the Oilers.
"I obviously knew how it would, because growing up I knew Tootoo, Price, Cheechoo, all those guys and the impact they had," Bear said. "It's a big responsibility, but at the same time it's an honour. Not many of us get the chance to make it. It's really hard, so you just have to be proud of it."