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GENE'S BLOG: Bear Comes Out of Hibernation

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about Ethan Bear recording his first career NHL goal

by Gene Principe / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - During the winter, bears go into hibernation. It's when bears tend to slow down. Black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears go into a deep sleep. They do so to escape the cold and because food is scarce. 

However, at least one bear (named Ethan) came out of hibernation Sunday night. It happened on a power play in the third period of Edmonton's game against Anaheim. Hard to believe but point 99 for No. 97 was overshadowed by goal one for No. 74. 

"We were on the power play and we were moving it around," described Bear. "There were no lanes to the net so we were cycling the puck to open up lanes. I went down and McDavid made a great pass. I had to bear down and it went in." 

Yes, Bear said, "bear down," about his first NHL goal. I had to smile at the use of his name to describe his game and a moment no kid ever expects but still never stops thinking about it. 

"It was a good play backdoor, and it's a play I'm going to remember for the rest of my life," explained the blueliner. 

He won't be the only one as a bevy of Bears were in attendance for the historic night. Mama Bear Geraldine, Papa Bear Lloyd, siblings and his girlfriend. They were caught on camera by Sportsnet and the reaction to the goal may have been better than the goal itself. There were smiles and tears of joy for a moment meant for a family. 

"The support they've given me throughout the years," said Bear, "has been incredible. In fact, people coming here and seeing my first one (goal) is great. I can hardly wait to see them." 

He posed with the puck for the customary first NHL goal photo and off he went but before came family there was a friend who tracked him down. 

It was Steve Konowalchuk, an assistant coach for the Anaheim Ducks. He was Bear's coach with Seattle of the Western Hockey League. 

Video: ANA@EDM: Bear nets first NHL goal off McDavid's pass

"I'm so happy for him to get that first goal," said the former Thunderbird bench boss "I mean I was happy we got the win but he's a great kid. Never once did I ever have to give him heck." 

In fact, what the heck is going on with Ethan Bear right now? Brought up temporarily (or so I thought) but this is becoming a permanent move for the season. He's played 13 games, has three assists and now has a one in the goal column. 

"People kept telling me to relax," explained the 20-year-old regarding getting that first NHL goal. "It's a really good feeling and something I used to dream about." 

The dream became reality on Sunday night. A young man who was drafted a day after Connor McDavid at the 2015 NHL entry draft in Florida. One we knew would make it the other wasn't a certainty. Far from a lock once you are chosen as far down as the 5th round. Credit the Oilers for knowing what they had in Bear and now it's a case of everyone else, including his teammates, finding out. 

"He won the WHL Defenceman of the Year award," said McDavid, a fellow junior hockey award-winner. "They don't just hand that out. What a great moment for him and his family. We're proud of him and he's quickly become a fan-favourite." 

Something I have noticed walking the concourse and in the stands at Rogers Place: I see No. 74 jerseys with 'Bear' on the name bar. Some are family, some are friends and others are just fans of the young man from Ochapowace Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. A community with 500 members on the reserve and about a 90-minute drive from Regina. 

"I never really had favourite players, " explained Bear. "It was more like hockey heroes. Carey Price and Jordin Tootoo because they are First Nations as well. I lived on the reservation my entire life before leaving for hockey. People treat me great. I'm just a normal person and I'm not anything better than anyone else." 

A role model and he doesn't even know it. That may be the best kind of all for a Bear who just came out of hibernation.

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