Brady Keeper, first Pimicikamak Cree Nation member to play in the NHL, makes a visit home

Brady Keeper of the NHL’s Florida Panthers was the guest of honour at an April 17 celebration in his home community of Pimicikamak Cree Nation (PCN) at Cross Lake, which included a grand entry, recognition ceremony and gift, speeches and presentations by invited guests.

Keeper, 22, who signed with the Panthers March 18 following his sophomore season with the NCAA University of Maine Black Bears, flew from Winnipeg to Cross Lake Wednesday morning and official events got underway at 1 p.m.

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“We are proud and thrilled to be welcoming Brady home,” said PCN Chief Tommy Monias in an April 16 news release. “The whole community is looking forward to the ceremony where we can recognize and celebrate Brady’s accomplishment as a community.”

Brady Keeper became the first member of PCN to play in the National Hockey League March 28, making his debut in Ottawa against the Ottawa Senators, recording a single shot and two hits in 12:50 of ice time and earning recognition as the game’s third star.

“I am honoured to be accompanying Brady home to Pimicikamak Cree Nation,” said Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) Grand Chief Garrison Settee, who is also a PCN member. “We as the MKO organization want to recognize Brady’s dedication and determination in becoming the first member of the Pimicikamak Cree Nation to reach the NHL. We also honour and recognize his family for their support in helping Brady reach this historic milestone.”

Keeper played 36 games with the Black Bears this season, leading all of the team’s blueliners with seven goals, 15 assists and 22 points. That followed a freshman season in which the six-foot-tall, 200-pound Keeper scored six goals and set up 16 others for 22 points in 37 games. 

Keeper played 161 games for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard over four seasons, scoring 52 goals and 81 assists for 133 points. He won the Steve “Boomer” Hawrysh MVP Award and the Brian Kozak Trophy as the league’s top defenceman and was also named a first-team all-star after the 2016-17 season that saw him score 23 goals and 25 assists in 48 games.

Keeper played one season with the midget AAA Northstars in Thompson, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 42 games in 2013-14, when he was recognized by the team for earning the most defensive player of the game citations over the course of the season. He was also a member of the Keystone Junior Hockey League’s Norway house North Stars in 2012-13, scoring six goals and 28 assists.

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