A New NHL

Richard Napolitano
Apr 17, 2000

An increasing amount of black players are making their way into the NHL that has for a long time been known for its lack of sympathy. The twenty such players in the NHL this season are evidence of the demographic changes that are taking place in Canada. Due to the massive flow of immigration from the Caribbean over the last 25 years, the black population has increased from .02% to 2% of Canada. 

In the years past, many minority players made short stops in the NHL. Willie O'Ree broke the hockey race barrier in 1958 becoming the first black player. Val James played in 11 games from 1981-82 and 1986-87, Reggie Savage played in 34 games from 1990-94 and only 45 games for Graeme Townshend. Just goaltender Grant Fuhr, who collected five Stanley Cup championship rings and forward Tony McKegney, who totaled 320 goals at the end of his career, endured a long, successful visit in the NHL. 

Future NHL top dog's include, Mike Grier of the Edmonton Oilers, a solid checker with a lot of speed, who has improved his scoring skills over the past year. He made an impression by reaching twenty goals in 1998-99 for the first time in his career and totaled 31points in 65GP during the 1999-00 season. Jarome Iginla finished second in goals, 28, at the end of 99' as a part of the Calgary Flames. The Islanders' goaltender, Kevin Weekes, has developed into a starter and has carried New York on his back this 1999-00 season with 16W in 56GP maintaining an average of 3.23GA. 

Three of the top ten heavyweights are black, Panthers Peter Worrell, Georges Laraque of Edmonton and Donald Brashear who does the enforcing in Vancouver.

Anson Carter is one of the NHL's rising black superstars and might very well be the best of them all. With explosive speed and quick hands, he is a guy that can score at any time. Only playing in 55 games in 1998-99 because of contract negotiations and an ankle injury, Carter scored 24 goals, 12 in the final 18 games. Carter grew up in the Scarborough section of Toronto, the middle of three children. His family roots originate in Barbados. Introduced to organized hockey at age eight, he advanced from league to league and secured a name for himself as one of the best players in the region. At 16, as a junior hockey player, he was already a professional prospect, even though scouts question his stamina. In the 1992 NHL entry draft, the Quebec Nordiques selected him in the 10th round, 220th overall. Subsequently, he enrolled in Michigan State on an athletic scholarship, entered the premed program and developed NHL potential by his sophomore season.  He decided to push his studies to the side during his junior year to pursue hockey and fell two classes short of a degree in sociology. In his senior year, Carter was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. Being traded to the Washington Capitals in 1996, he began to transcend into a more valuable hockey player for the Caps' AHL affiliate, although he did not see too much of the "big time" behind Washington's veteran lineup.

On March 1, 1997, Carter was traded to the Boston Bruins where he has begun to peak, solidifying his role as a future superstar with the desire to be the best hockey player that he can possibly be. 

In 1999-2000, the NHL began diversity training. The National Hockey League has suspended three players for a total of five games because of slurs against black players in the past two seasons, making the NHL the only professional sports league to institute suspensions for racial slurs. The league has also adopted terms such as "inflammatory words" into its guidelines for judging slurs in the future. Although satisfied with the league's crackdown, most black players regret that the focus has moved from their ability to play to their race.

Also making a difference in the community, the NHL, pairing up with USA Hockey created a diversity task force to increase the awareness of the game among kids from different backgrounds and cultures. 

Even though they don't define "hockey", their accomplishment can destroy the image as a white-based sport. Hockey can not become universal until ice skates are as ordinary as Timberlands, until goalie equipment becomes affordable, or until the game becomes recognizable in Brooklyn, as it is in Ontario. These black players can push hockey in that direction.

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