Ochapowace First Nation’s Ethan Bear is still reacting to his latest accomplishment. Bear recently signed a three-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

“It feels really rewarding and to sign with Edmonton is a really big honor,” said Bear.

“I love the game and I know I’m really passionate about the sport and I love hockey so to get my chance to get better every time. You know I embrace it and I don’t take it for granted.”

The defenceman was a fifth-round pick by the Oilers in last year’s NHL draft. He also scored 65 points with 19 goals and 46 assists with WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds.

“It was good, our team really came together early in the season and even in the playoffs and it showed,” said Bear.

“We always stuck together and myself, I tried to keep consistent and work harder every day. I always had areas to improve on so I think that was huge for me.”

Back at home on Ochapowace, Ethan’s family say all of his hard work has finally paid off.

“I was very excited and overwhelmed with emotion for him,” said Ethan’s mother, Geraldine Bear.

“I felt so proud to think that his dream is coming true and its another step in the journey for him to become an NHL player. Something he wanted to do ever since he was in minor hockey.”

Ethan’s uncle, Wesley Bear, says their entire family has been raised on the ice. Fred, George, and Albert Bear played with the Whitewood Orioles in the 1950s. Today, their hockey skills are passed on to the younger generation.

“It’s an ongoing thing and we sure encourage all of our children to participate,” said Wesley.

“It’s something to show to our young people here. If we strive for our goals, we can reach those stars out there, we just have to believe in ourselves and go out there feeling proud.”

For now, Bear will continue to train at the Oilers development camp in Jasper, Alta. Once he’s done there, he’s expected to come home for a family barbecue, where all of his family will congratulate him and encourage him to keep moving forward.