Bear returns to Canadian franchise via trade with Carolina Hurricanes

One of the more popular current Indigenous players in the National Hockey League is back toiling for a Canadian-based franchise.

Ethan Bear, a member of Ochapowace Nation in Saskatchewan, was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes this past Friday, Oct. 28.

Bear, a 25-year-old defenceman, spent the 2021-22 campaign with the Hurricanes. He had spent the four seasons before that with the Edmonton Oilers’ organization.

Bear, however, had not seen any action this season with the Hurricanes, who have a plethora of talented blueliners.

The Carolina squad traded Bear and forward Lane Pederson to Vancouver in exchange for the Canucks’ fifth-round selection in the 2023 National Hockey League’s Entry Draft. The Hurricanes also retained a portion of Bear’s salary as part of the deal.

While the Hurricanes have not had concerns with their talented defensive corps this season, the same cannot be said for the Canucks who have been hit hard with various injuries.

That’s why Patrick Allvin, Vancouver’s general manager, was pleased he was able to acquire Bear.

“I think we have been a little bit depleted here early on the back end,” he said. “We got the right shot defenceman that's been playing in the league for a couple of years and been part of some playoffs with both Edmonton and Carolina, and hopefully we could get him back on track here.”

Bear was once considered a cornerstone of the Oilers. But some of his final days with the Edmonton organization were marred by racist activity directed at Bear on social media.

Bear played his final game with the Oilers in May 2021. Bear and his Edmonton teammates were swept by the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 in a best-of-seven, first-round playoff series that spring.

The Oilers lost the final game of that series in triple overtime. Afterwards, racist comments were directed at Bear when some fans lashed out about Bear’s efforts in that contest which they felt led to Edmonton’s defeat.

Plenty of support also poured in for Bear after the racism was called out. He is considered a role model for countless Indigenous youth hockey players since making it to the NHL.

At the time Bear responded via a video statement.

“I’m here to stand up to this behaviour, to these comments,” he said. “I’m proud of where I come from. I’m proud to be from Ochapowace First Nation. And I’m not just doing this for myself. I’m doing this for all people of colour. I’m doing this for the next generation, to help make change, to love one another, to support one another, to be kind to each other.”

Bear said there is no place for racism in sports, any workplace or in the community.

“So, I call on all of us to help make change and to end racism,” he added. “We all deserve to be treated fairly. And, at the end of the day, I think we’ll get there.”

Bear, however, never played another game with the Oilers. He was traded to Carolina in August 2021.

Bear appeared in 58 regular season contests with the Hurricanes this past season. He earned 14 points, including five goals, in those games.

Allvin is pleased he was able to swing a deal to land Bear.

“His transition game has been something that I've watched over the years that I like,” he said.

Allvin is also hoping Bear is happy to be part of a Canadian franchise again.

“Hopefully he’s excited to come back to Canada and be part of the Vancouver Canucks and hopefully this will give the coaching staff more options on the back end,” Allvin said.

Allvin, however, was unwilling to speculate how Bear will be utilized by the Canucks.

“That is a question for the coaching staff,” he said. “He is a (restricted free agent) on the last year of his deal. I’m excited to see what he has to give us. The coaching staff will figure out the pairings.”

Allvin believes Bear is still capable of becoming an elite NHL defenceman.

“He’s still young, and if you look around the league, there are a lot of defenceman that usually break through in this age (range),” he said.

Windspeaker.com

By Sam Laskaris, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com