Can we just stop the madness already? Black people like hockey, we really do

Be calm, breathe deeply, have some chamomile tea.

Aw, hell no!

I had planned to stay above the fray, not get involved in the talk radio ramblings of ESPN’s Colin Cowherd and his inane assertion that African-American men don’t watch hockey. I was fine letting it go until someone sent me an even more witless defense of Cowherd’s dribble from streetcarnage.com.

“He was saying American blacks don’t watch hockey,” the missive posted by John Pittsley said. “I’m not sure if Canada has any. But if they do, I’m sure they watch it. It’s probably required by law. But here in the good ol’ USA, blacks couldn’t give less of a sh**t about hockey.”

To further prove that his finger’s on the pulse of all things minority hockey, Mr. Pittsley observes that if you watch a hockey game “chances are, you won’t see a black guy on the ice.” Then he added that “there are currently 28 black NHL players, some of whom don’t play a prominent role or get a lot of ice time.”

Jeez, what’s a brother got to do on ice to get prominent role status? Win a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman? Play 33:16 minutes of a crucial 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs game and average nearly 25 minutes of ice time per game thus far  in the 2014-15 season? Score a sick, back-breaking wraparound breakaway goal? Check.

Become synonymous with Canadian Olympic hockey excellence? Be one of the first team captains of color in the NHL and a sure-fire first ballot Hockey Hall of Fame inductee with 560 goals, 610 assists – and counting – in 16 seasons? Check.

Colorado Avalanche forward and future Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla.

Colorado Avalanche forward and future Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla.

Be fifth in the NHL in goals, ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby, and Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin? Check.

Cowherd’s comments and streetcarnage.com’s diatribe contribute to a false narrative that black Americans and other people of color don’t play, don’t watch, don’t like hockey. It’s an old saw and – how many times do we have to say it – a wrong one.

I hope that, if anything, this blog teaches folks about the history and growing impact of people of color in the game on the ice, in the stands in the broadcast booth, wherever.

The good news is that ESPN Chicago observed this week that there’s enough interest in hockey among minorities in the Windy City that the hometown Blackhawks have taken notice and are trying to tap into it. It’s good hockey sense and good business sense. And thanks to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers, for the shout-out in the piece.

Before the NHL season began, I asked Color of Hockey readers to share their stories about what attracted them to the game. Toronto’s Garfield Richards, 44, told me he started playing after watching his children enjoy themselves playing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League and a house league at the city’s Victoria Village.

Richards was among several adult hockey beginners profiled in a National Post story last January about hockey’s changing face. He jokingly described himself as “the guy in the blue helmet looking a bit like The Great Gazoo” in the photo that accompanied the article.

 “I’m a huge fan of Montreal and of P.K. Subban’s,” Richards told me. “He has the work ethic of my mother (Jamaican to the core) and the energy of my kids.”
Tarasai Karega reminded me that she’s been in love with hockey ever since she first watched Disney’s “The Mighty Ducks” movie as a little girl. Hockey became her life. She went on to win an NCAA women’s hockey title playing for Amherst College in 2008-09 and served as coordinator for hockey operations for Philadelphia’s Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation.
Tarasai Karega, far right, with Amherst College teammates.

Tarasai Karega, far right, with Amherst College teammates.

These days, Karega lives in the land of Mickey Mouse and works as a premium guest services representatives for the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. But Karega says when she’s not working Magic games, she’s watching the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears play hockey.
Yahong ChiYahong Chi told me that she got hooked on hockey because it’s part of the Canadian fabric, no matter where you come from.
“My East Asian parents, having immigrated to Ottawa when I was 2, were very much disinterested in hockey; and so was I until my teenage years, when I started to notice just how much hockey was ingrained in the lifeblood of the city,” she explained to me. “And once I started to pay attention, I couldn’t stop. With hockey culture already so established in Canada, it made falling in love with hockey, probably the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Following sports writers on Twitter, turning on the TV on Saturday nights, obsessing over line combinations—it was amazingly simple for hockey to integrate itself into my life.”
So to folks who say black people and other people of color don’t like this or don’t like that when it comes to hockey, I quote the great actor Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”: “You can’t handle the truth.”

 

 

 

 

 

Washington Capitals prospect Madison Bowey racks up points, scores CHL honor

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Madison Bowey.

Madison Bowey.

It’s early in the 2014-15 hockey season and Washington Capitals defensive prospect Madison Bowey is already putting up numbers that would make Bobby Orr, Paul Coffey, or Mike Green proud.

Bowey, a Capitals 2013 second-round draft pick, was the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Week for Sept. 29-Oct. 5. The defenseman for the Western Hockey League’s  Kelowna Rockets scored two goals and six assists in three games and had a plus-minus rating of plus-7.

Bowey, the team’s captain, did most of his damage last Wednesday in a 7-5 Rockets home win over the Vancouver Giants, notching two goals and three assists. Both goals were scored while the Rockets were shorthanded.

The 19-year-old Winnipeg native picked up two more assists in a 5-4 overtime road win against the Everett Silvertips last Friday and another in a 6-4 road victory against the Seattle Thunderbirds last Saturday.

Bowey’s scoring binge gives him two goals and nine assists in five games this season. He tallied 21 goals, 39 assists, and collected 93 penalty minutes in 72 games with the Rockets last season.

 

 

 

Anthony Duclair, Darnell Nurse, earn spots on New York Rangers, Edmonton Oilers

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Mission accomplished – at least Phase One.

Forward Anthony Duclair entered the New York Rangers training camp and defenseman Darnell Nurse arrived at the Edmonton Oilers camp on missions to make the big club and not be sent back to their junior teams.

Anthony Duclair looks to make NHL regular season debut this week.

Anthony Duclair looks to make NHL regular season debut this week.

Both 19-year-olds learned that they’ve made it to the National Hockey League, at least for a nine-game look-see, with the teams that drafted them in 2013.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Duclair told Blueshirts United. “I had a meeting with (Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault) and was told I’d be starting the season with the Rangers. Words can not describe how I feel right now, but I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’m pretty proud of myself.”

And the Rangers are pretty proud of Duclair. The team announced last Friday that he was the recipient of the 2014 Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award, given to the best rookie in training camp as judged by the media covering the team.

Past winners of the award include goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, retired goalie Mike Richter, retired forward Tony Amonte, and forwards Manny Malhotra (now with the Montreal Canadiens) and Nigel Dawes.

Duclair, the 80th overall pick in the third round of the 2013 draft, notched three goals and two assists in five preseason games for the Rangers. The speedy left wing registered 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games last season for the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

“He’s got an NHL skill set,” Vineault told Blueshirts United of Duclair. “He’s got the hands, the speed, the thinking with the puck. Can that continue when the season starts against a full NHL lineup with full NHL pace and intensity? He’s going to get a chance to prove that. He’s earned the right to start with us Thursday.”

So has Nurse. The seventh player chosen in the 2013 draft, he was one of the last

Nurse wants to stick with Oilers beyond 9-game NHL look-see.

Nurse wants to stick with Oilers beyond 9-game NHL look-see.

players cut by the Oilers before the start of the 2013-14 season. An emotional Nurse told reporters back then that “it sucks” being cut.

But he returned to the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, donned the captain’s “C,” dedicated himself to making the Oilers in 2014-15, and making Team Canada’s roster for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in December. He was inexplicably left off last year’s Canadian squad.

Nurse, who hails from a competitive sports family that includes retired Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, was a combination of all smiles and all business upon hearing that he had made the Oilers.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Nurse said on the Oilers’ website Sunday. “With that said, it’s just another step. I think to get to this point I’m really happy with the way I went through camp and the way I played, but there’s always room for improvement. I think that’s definitely something I’m going to focus on, continuing to get better everyday, have fun and work hard.”

Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish said Nurse would have had to play himself out of a roster spot during training camp. The defenseman didn’t score any goals in six preseason games, but he tallied two assists and had a plus/minus rating of plus-3.

He scored 13 goals and 37 assists in 64 games at Sault Ste. Marie last season. He was a plus-1 and collected 91 penalty minutes with  the Greyhounds.

“Right now, I think he’s deserving of the look,” MacTavish said on the Oilers website. “He’s played exceptionally well for a young defenseman, I think. We’ll see where it goes with Darnell.”

Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins echoed MacTavish’s view that Nurse may have made the NHL, but he still doesn’t have it made.

“For our guys that aren’t the established NHL players, the evaluation continues…,” he said on the team’s website. “They’ve earned the right to stay another day, but their evaluations will continue. Darnell knows that. He’s a bright kid, he’s a passionate kid, he wants to stay here dearly. I know that, but we’ll continue to evaluate.”

 

 

To stay or go? Anthony Duclair’s play gives Rangers something to think about

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Anthony Duclair wants to make it hard for the New York Rangers.

Quebec's Anthony Duclair is trying to stick with the Rangers.

Quebec’s Anthony Duclair is trying to stick with the Rangers.

The speedy 19-year-old sniper from the Quebec Remparts and the 80th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft is hoping to make the Rangers brain trust think long and hard about keeping him on the team’s roster instead of sending him back to his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team.

“I’m trying to make this team for sure,” Duclair told MSG Networks between periods of the Rangers 4-1 preseason win over the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago Friday’s night.”I’m not a kid looking to go back to junior.”

And if he scores more goals like the one he notched midway through the first period of Friday night’s game, Duclair could find himself skating on Broadway. It was his first NHL goal.

“I thought I was going to be nerveous, but I handled it pretty well with the help of the guys here, talking to me, telling me to relax,” Duclair told Blueshirts United after the game.

Duclair registered 50 goals and 49 assists in 59 games last season for Quebec. Though his 2013-14 stats were impressive, Rangers management entered training camp thinking that Duclair could benefit from another year of seasoning in the QMJHL.

But Duclair has other ideas.

 

 

Vancouver Sun runs a less than sunny caption with photo of Jordan Subban

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The publication is named The Vancouver Sun but the caption with the photo was hardly enlightening.

Defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth-round draft pick in 2013, scored his first-ever NHL goal in Tuesday night’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks. After scoring the goal, a happy Subban celebrated with his teammates, a moment captured in a photograph published in The Sun’s online edition.

The picture was fine. The caption that accompanied it, not so much. It said: Vancouver Canucks celebrate goal by Jordan Subban (dark guy in the middle) against San Jose Sharks in NHL pre-season game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C. on September 23, 2014.

“Dark guy in the middle.” Really? Glad the cutline cleared up that confusion.

Jordan Subban

Jordan Subban

To add some bones to the caption’s obsession with Subban’s flesh: Jordan Subban was the 115th player selected in the 2013 draft. He’s the youngest brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban.

Jordan was a top defenseman last season for the Bellville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. The diminutive 19-year-old notched 12 goals and 30 assists for the Bulls in 65 games. Big brother P.K., who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman in 2013, on several occasions has said Jordan is a cerebral blue-liner who can teach him a thing or two about playing defense.

The Sun and Vancouver’s Province newspaper apologized for the insensitive caption, but it’s still the latest racially clumsy episode before the first puck drops on the NHL’s 2014-15 season. First EA Sports inexplicably depicts St. Louis Blues tough guy Ryan Reaves about 15 shades too dark in its NHL video game, now the crazy Subban caption.

Subban took the episode in stride.

“I heard about that,” he told The Province Wednesday. “I had a chance to talk to a representative from the paper and it seemed like a pretty honest mistake. Am I worried about it? No. If people should be talking about something, it should be the way I played last night rather than that. Hopefully, it will just die down.

“It was just unfortunate. I don’t think there were any bad intentions. It is what it is and I’ve moved on and I’m sure everyone else will, too.”

Subban is on his way back to Bellville. The Canucks cut him and three other players and shipped them back to their major junior hockey teams.

 

Anaheim Ducks ink 2014 playoff star Devante Smith-Pelly to a two-year deal

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Devante Smith-Pelly only scored two goals and 10 assists in 19 games for the Anaheim Ducks last season.

Devante Smith-Pelly

Devante Smith-Pelly

But the rugged 22-year-old right wing with the hyphenated last name made a name for himself in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, showing the power and promise of things to come. On a team loaded with scorers like Ryan Getzlaf and Teemu Selanne, Smith-Pelly topped the Ducks with five playoff goals in 12 games.

Anaheim rewarded him Tuesday with a two-year contract with undisclosed terms. ESPN.com reported that the deal is worth $800,000 per season.

“I’m pretty relieved to get it done,” Smith-Pelly said on the Ducks’ website. “This is my first process going through something like this, so I wasn’t sure how long it would take. There’s a long process to it. I wasn’t sure if it was going to come this close to camp, but at the same time, I knew something would get done before.”

Taken in the second round with the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Smith-Pelly proclaimed himself happy with last season’s playoff scoring run but added that he wasn’t completely satisfied because the Ducks “would have liked to go forward and win the thing.”

“On a personal level, it was good for me and good for my confidence,” he said. “I learned a lot and had a lot of fun the whole time.”

With the contract negotiations behind him. Smith-Pelly said he can concentrate on having a good training camp and work towards becoming a regular top-six forward on the team.

Ducks Head Coach Bruce Boudreau “shuffles the lines and, with the way I play, I can be successful on any type of line,” Smith-Pelly said.

“I’m just trying to get better,” he added. “If it ends up being in a top-six position, hopefully I can contribute offensively and keep my physical game. If it’s bottom-six, hopefully it’s the same. I’m the type of player that can play in any kind of role, and I’ll accept any role I’m given.”

 

 

 

Show me the Color of Hockey

With the 2014-15 National Hockey League season just a few weeks away, I’d like to see and hear from hockey fans of color about your hockey experiences – as players young and old, as parents, as teams, as fans, whatever.

I’d like to post your photos accompanied by a bit of information about you: how you got involved in the game, what you love about it, and who’s your favorite player. I’d, also like to know your predictions on which team will win the Stanley Cup, which player will win the scoring title, and who’ll be the league’s most valuable player.

Once I get enough responses I’ll post the results, hopefully before the puck drops at the NHL’s first regular-season game next month. So don’t be shy, send your pictures and stories to colorofhockey3582@yahoo.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Former NHLer Mike Grier to coach all-star team of American hockey prospects

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Mike Grier already has his strategy down for coaching a squad of some of the best 2015 NHL draft-eligible players born in the United States: just open the bench door and point them to the ice.

“You’ve got all the best players around so you won’t have to do too much,” Grier told me. “I’ll keep everyone involved and keep the lines flowing.”

Grier will test his coaching philosophy on September 25 when he serves as a bench boss at the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, home of the Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s definitely an honor to be involved in this event,” Grier said. “It’s a big deal for USA Hockey and you’ll have a lot of NHL teams watching.”

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Rugged forward Mike Grier had two stints with the Buffalo Sabres during his 15-year NHL career (Photo/Bill Wippert)

Forty-two players who’ll be eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft will compete on teams coached by Grier – who played 15 seasons for the Sabres, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and San Jose Sharks – and Eddie Olczyk, the lead hockey analyst for the NHL on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

Olczyk played 16 seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins. He helped guide the Rangers to its Stanley Cup victory in 1994 and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.

A Detroit native and Boston University hockey standout, Grier was the NHL’s third U.S.-born black player. He followed Indiana-born forward Donald Brashear and Ocala, Florida’s Valmore James who became the NHL’s first African-American player when he debuted with Sabres in the 1981-82 season.

James and Brashear were tough guys, on-ice enforcers known more for their fists than their scoring touch. Grier combined toughness with scoring. He was the NHL’s first African-American player to score more than 20 goals in a season. He finished his career with 162 goals, 383 total points and 510 penalty minutes in 1,060 games.

Grier played for Team USA at the 1995 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship and won a bronze medal skating for the U.S. at the 2004 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

“It’s really something that I’m proud of, being one of the first to break through,” Grier said.  “The (minority) players who are coming up now are skill players who are contributing to their teams. It’s only natural to get more kids of color in the game.”

These days, Grier is involved in coaching youth hockey coaching and he served as an on-ice instructor last month at USA Hockey’s Boys’ Select 17 Player Development Camp.

“I’m just seeing what comes,” Grier said. “I like working with kids on the player development side of it and giving back to the kids.”

Ice Bucket Challenge a real challenge for Old Spice Guy

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Whether he’s promoting Secret deodorant or his trusty brand, Isaiah Mustafa – aka the Old Spice Guy from the hilarious TV commercials – can’t let an ounce of wetness touch his perfectly chiseled man-hide, even if its’s for a good cause like the Ice Bucket Challenge to combat ALS. But he’s always willing to try.

“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” hates sweat but loves ice hockey and discussed his passion for the sport last November with the Color of Hockey.

"Old Spice Guy" Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

“Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa rarely leaves home without his hockey stick.

 

When darkness fails – EA Sports fades St. Louis Blues’ Ryan Reaves too black in game

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Ryan Reaves

Ryan Reaves

As an on-ice enforcer who tangles with some of the National Hockey League’s best fighters, St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves is used to being a little black and blue after a tough game.

But one can excuse Reaves for being red hot miffed at EA Sports  for digitally making him waaaayyy too black in its NHL video game.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports' digital version of the rugged right wing.

The real Ryan Reaves, left, and EA Sports’ digital version of the rugged right wing.

Adventures – or misadventures – in pigmentation aren’t unusual in the media world. Time Magazine faced an avalanche of criticism when it darkened the facial features of then-murder suspect O.J. Simpson on its June 27, 1994 cover.

And Lifetime’s made-for-TV biopic about the late R&B singer/dancer Aaliyah has been slogging through controversy from the moment its producers initially cast an actress who many Aaliyah fans deemed too light-skinned to play the lead role.

However, the ghosts of colorations past probably mean little to Reaves, who’s dealing with the here and now. He made his displeasure with EA’s digital version of him known in one succinct tweet.

You’d think the folks at EA wouldn’t want to get on Reaves’ bad side. He’s the Blues’ designated hitter – with his body and his fists. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native tallied only 2 goals and 6 assists in 63 games for St. Louis last season. While Reaves finished 546th in the league in scoring in 2013-14, he was 12th in the league in penalty minutes with 126.

Reaves has been hearing it from teammates and friends in the NHL about his dark digital alter ego. Blues goaltender Brian Elliott, ever the eagle eye, tweeted that he noticed something different between the real Reaves and the EA one.

“I know eh…wrong jersey…,” Elliott wrote.

 

 

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