May 17th, 2024

McKenna wins APTN Indigenous MVP award

By JAMES TUBB on April 16, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Tigers forward Gavin McKenna leads the train of players to the bench after scoring an early first period goal in a 3-1 Game 2 win March 30 over the Red Deer Rebels in their first-round series.

Gavin McKenna has been recognized for his efforts as an Indigenous hockey player.

The Medicine Hat Tigers rookie was named the recipient of the 2024 APTN Bryan Trottier Most Valuable Player Award. The award announcement was made on Saturday’s APTN Hockey Night in Canada in Cree broadcast of the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators game.

The APTN launched in 1999 as the first national Indigenous broadcaster in the world. Since then, the Canadian network has become a global leader in programming that celebrates the rich diversity of Indigenous Peoples across Turtle Island and beyond.

The APTN Bryan Trottier MVP Award is given to an Indigenous hockey player who “demonstrates on-ice excellence and contributes to the Indigenous community.”

McKenna was travelling Monday and was unable to speak with the News, but shared his emotions on receiving the award in a release on the Tigers’ website.

“It’s a super cool feeling, you know, being Indigenous and getting that recognition,” McKenna said. “I’m super proud of who I am and my background.

“It’s an award that is pretty big, and it’s something that you don’t just get because of your hockey talent, it’s also stuff within the community. When I go home, I try and help my community as much as I can.”

McKenna, a member of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation, is the first junior hockey player to earn the award. Previous winners include Florida Panthers defenceman Brandon Montour and Olympic gold medalist and PWHL forward Jamie Lee Rattray.

The Whitehorse product’s rookie campaign finished at 34 goals and 97 points in 61 games. He added another two goals and six points in the Tigers’ five playoff games.

The 16-year-old said in the release he feels most at home connecting with nature when he is back in Whitehorse.

“Being out in nature and stuff, you know, I hunt and fish,” McKenna added. “It’s all the traditions that the Indigenous peoples have and, you know, being a part of that was super cool growing up.”

He also said he hopes to share his love of hockey with other young people in Whitehorse.

“When I was a little kid, I used to do these hockey camps and we had people like NHLers come up and help out with them,” McKenna said. “These camps are still going on to this day. So I’m kind of now that guy that comes and helps out with the kids. One day I was that kid who looked up to all these guys and now to kind of have these guys look up to me is a pretty surreal feeling.

“I just want to help out with these kids as much as I can, because Whitehorse isn’t the biggest city out there, but we’ve got lots of young kids who love hockey.”

McKenna will receive a hand-carved hockey stick designed by Two Spirit Ojibwe artist Patrick Hunter.

Hunter is well known for his work with the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as designing a hockey mask for Minnesota Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

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