A composer, DJ and “big” hockey fan from Quebec’s northernmost Cree community will perform Canada’s national anthem at the Bell Center in Montreal before Saturday’s game, in Eastern Cree, French and English.
Pakesso Mukash has been busy translating the lyrics into his language and trying them out on his baby girl.
“I’ve been singing it to my daughter every night for three weeks, and luckily she hasn’t had enough of it,” Mukash said. “In fact, she falls asleep to the anthem every night.”
When he was first approached to perform the anthem, “obviously I didn’t believe it,” he said. But as the plans came to fruition, the Montreal musician and former CBC North TV host worked to polish and memorize the translations and practice vocal warm-ups ahead of the big game.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to represent my people and basically all Indigenous peoples in Canada,” said Mukash, who won a Juno Award in 2011 with the band CerAmony. “This opens the door for one of the greatest franchises in sports history to recognize Indigenous peoples.”
“It’s a big step towards reconciliation.”
For the occasion, Mukash asked his niece, an artist named Nalakwsis, to make him a beaded pin with the Canadiens logo.
The finished pin features the famous red, white and blue logo surrounded by tiny orange leaves to represent Indigenous children.
“It was to set the intention again to remember the children and all that our people have been through,” Mukash added.
Saturday’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs will air March 26 on Hockey Night in Canada starting at 7 p.m. ET.