Florida Panthers’ Brady Keeper played 12:40 in his first ever NHL game Thursday night, and while he may not have earned a point, he did make an impact.
The undrafted defenseman is now the first Pimicikamak Cree Nation man to play in the NHL, and he turned out some big hits in the Panthers’ 5-2 victory over the Senators in Ottawa.
"It's a dream come true," said Brady Keeper. "I've got no words to explain how I feel. I'm just happy my parents and my whole family came down and got to see me play."
Surrounded by friends and family, Keeper posed for photos at the game shared to social media by the NHL Players’ Association with a caption referencing how the Keepers made the game a “family affair.’
Hours before the game Thursday, Keeper’s father Anthony told CTV News all of Brady’s grandparents, his girlfriend and infant son, most of his brothers and some aunties had made last-minute arrangements to see the game.
He also shared how his son first found his passion for hockey, playing and sometimes scrapping with his brothers on a backyard rink in Cross Lake, Man.
Panthers head coach Bob Boughner said Keeper performed well in his first game, considering the level of pressure.
"Everyone remembers their first game and how many nerves you have and how tough it is to focus," said Boughner.
Keeper was also invited to participate in a faceoff as part of a ceremonial puck drop before the game, which was dedicated to truth and reconciliation with the aim of welcoming and celebrating First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
Keeper said the gesture meant a lot to him.
"I didn't know that was going on, but it was pretty cool I got the chance to take the faceoff,” he said. “The guys yelled at me and told me to come take the faceoff so that was pretty special."
With files from Lisa Wallace/The Canadian Press