Maame Biney becomes first black female U.S. Olympic speedskater

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We interrupt this hockey blog to give a big shout-out to Maame Biney, who became the first African-American woman to make the U.S,. Olympic speedskating team.

The 17-year-old short track skater Reston, Virginia, punched her ticket to PyeongChang, South Korea, in February with a dominating performance at the U.S. Olympic trials over the weekend in Kerns, Utah.

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She swept the women’s 500-meter finals with a 43.291 finishing time in her first final and a personal-best 43.161 in the second 500-meter final.

“I can’t believe it, aww jeez,” she told the Associated Press. “It’s a really good feeling, but it was to set in first because it takes me a while. I’m like, ‘Holy cow.'”

Her father was apparetnly pumped, too. He held up a sign before her second final that read “Kick Some Hiney Biney.”

Biney is no stranger to international competition. She won a bronze medal in the 2016-17 Short Track World Junior Championship and was a member of the 2015-16 U.S. world junior short track team.

Biney began speedskating at age  6 after she was told she was too fast for speedskating. She’s an alum of the Fort Dupont Kids on Ice Speedskating, a Washington, D.C. program that was conducted at one of the few ice skating rinks in the United States located in a largely African-American neighborhood.

According to her Team USA bio, she wants to be a chemical engineer. She said that if she could have any super-power it would be the ability to freeze time.
Apparently, she already has the ability to crush it.
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Ang, Suzuki and Yamamoto compete for spots on U.S. and Canadian WJC teams

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Three players of Asian heritage are vying for spots on the U.S. and Canadian teams that will compete at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.

Forwards Jonathan Ang and Nick Suzuki were among 32 players Hockey Canada selected last week to participate in the selection camp to determine Canada’s 22-player roster for the eight-team WJC tournament to be played Dec, 26-Jan.5 in Buffalo, New York.

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Ang, a center for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, and Suzuki, a center for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack, begin their quest for roster spots Monday at Hockey Canada’s four-day camp in St. Catharines, Ontario.

“It’s an honor to be given the opportunity to attend selection camp,” Ang said. “Growing up and watching the World Juniors every year, it’s an unbelievable feeling to be considered for this year’s National Junior Team and to be given a chance to represent our country.”

Peterborough Petes forward Jonathan Ang hopes he’ll don Team Canada’s jersey at the 2018 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Buffalo, New York Dec. 26-Jan. 5 (Photo/ Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Kailer Yamamoto, a right wing for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, was chosen for the United States’ preliminary WJC roster. He’ll be among 23 U.S. players who’ll attend USA Hockey’s training camp Dec. 15-19 at Nationwide Arena and OhioHealth Ice Haus in Columbus, Ohio.

If Yamamoto, makes the cut, he’ll attend an additional camp in Jamestown, New York, Dec. 20-23.

Suzuki, whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan in the early 1900s, was the 13th overall pick in the 2017 National Hockey League Draft, chosen by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

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He leads the Attack, a major junior team, in scoring with 17 goals and 27 assists in 26 games. He said he’s looking forward to Canada’s World Juniors camp.

“It’s been on my mind since the summer. I definitely want to make that team,”  he told the Owen Sound Sun Times. “I think I can PK (penalty kill), or be on the power play, or maybe even be a lower-line guy and just build energy for the top line…I think I could do any role for the team.”

Ang, 19, became the first player of Malaysian heritage to be drafted by an NHL team when the Florida Panthers, chose him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He signed a three-year entry level contract with the NHL team in November.

Ang is the Petes’ top scorer this season with 15 goals and 20 assists in 31 games.

Yamamoto, 19, was taken by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of the 2017 draft with the 22nd overall pick.

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He appeared in nine games for the Oilers this season, collecting 3 assists before being reassigned to Spokane. He has 1 goal and 9 assists in 12 games since returning to Washington State.

A Spokane native of Japanese and Hawaiian heritage, Yamamoto led the Chiefs in scoring in 2016-17 with 42 goals and 47 assists in 65 games.

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Jordan Subban traded as P.K. and Malcolm Subban face each other for the first time in the NHL

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Change has been good for two Subbans. Will it be good for a third?

Defenseman Jordan Subban goes from Canucks to Kings.

Defenseman Jordan Subban, who was a Vancouver Canucks, 2013 fourth-round draft pick, was traded to the Los Angeles Kings Friday for forward Nic Dowd.

Jordan, an undersized blue’liner at 5-foot-9, 185-pounds, had spent most of the last three seasons playing for the Utica Comets, the Canuck’s American Hockey League affiliate. He tallied 5 assists in 16 games for the Comets.

He was an offensive dynamo for Utica last season, finishing sixth on the team in scoring with 16 goals and 20 assists in 65 games. He was seventeenth in scoring among all AHL defensemen.

Overall, Subban has totaled 27 goals, 50 assists and 87 penalty minutes in 148 regular season games in the AHL.

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Jordan becomes the second Subban brother to relocate in the 2017-18 hockey season. Goaltender Malcolm Subban,  a Boston Bruins 2014 first-round draft pick, was snatched up by the Vegas Golden Knights after the Bruins placed him on waivers in October.

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Before the move, Malcolm was viewed by some as a player with unfulfilled potential. He appeared in 32 games for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL farm team, and posted an 11-14-1 record with a 2.41 goals-against average and .917 save percentage.

Since his shift to the desert, Malcolm has become an integral part of the feel-good story that is the Golden Knights inaugural season.  He’s filled in admirably  since after starter Marc-Andre Fleury suffered an injury.

The acrobatic Subban has a 6-2 record in eight games with a 2.27 goals-against average – 10th-best among NHL goalies – and a .923 save percentage.

The NHL rookie netminder faced one his biggest tests Friday night – older brother P.K. Subban and his Nashville Predators. Malcolm made 41 saves and registered a shootout shut out against Nashville in a dramatic 4-3 Golden Knights win.

The contest at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena was the first time the brothers played against each other in an NHL regular season game. Proud papa Karl Subban, was in attendance.

The hockey world was stunned when P.K., a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, was traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Predators in June 2016 for Nashville defenseman Shea Weber.

Montreal’s brain trust felt Weber was a more-reliable blue-liner and a missing piece to their Stanley Cup Final puzzle than the flashier Subban.

Nashville went on to play the Pittsburgh Penguins for the Stanley Cup last season while the Canadiens lost to the New York Rangers in six games in the playoff’s Eastern Conference quarter final.

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P.K. is the Predators’ sixth-leading scorer with 4 goals and 14 assists in 28 games so far this season. He’s 15th in scoring among NHL defensemen. Weber is 22nd among the league’s blue-liners with 6 goals and 10 assists in 23 games.

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Charles and Devin Williams share a goaltending bond and ECHL success

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Charles and Devin Williams aren’t brothers, but they do belong to hockey’s goaltending brotherhood and have a lot in common.

Both are African-American Michiganders  – Charles from Canton and Devin from Saginaw.

Manchester Monarchs goaltender Charles Williams.

Both were go-to goalies: Charles led tiny Canisius College to its first Atlantic Hockey regular season championship last season and Devin backstopped formidable  Erie Otters teams in the Ontario Hockey League that featured a young phenom named Connor McDavid .

Both were skipped over by National Hockey League teams in recent drafts. Now both are enjoying impressive rookie seasons in the ECHL.

Charles, 25, has continued his winning ways from Canisius to the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs, a Los Angeles Kings farm team that signed him to a contract in March.

He has a 7-3-1 record in 11 games and a 2.15 goals-against average, third-best in the ECHL. He has a .932 save percentage.

Charles Williams doing for the Manchester Monarchs what he did for Canisius College – locking down the net.

Devin, 22, has been hot for the Tulsa Oilers, a St. Louis Blues ECHL affiliate. He has a 4-2-2 record, 2.80 goals-against average, and a .912 save percentage in 11 games.

Tulsa Oilers goalie Devin Williams.

He was named the CCM/ECHL Goalie of the Month for October after going 4-0 with a 1.83 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage in five games.

Devin signed with Tulsa in September after playing a season of Canadian college hockey at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where he posted an 8-4-0 record with a 2.80 goalst-against average and .896 save percentage.

“The game is quicker, but the big difference is how smart the guys are,” he told The Tulsa World of the adjustment from college to the pro game. “The higher you move up, I think, the smarter the guys are…I have been putting in a lot of work in practice to make sure I am ready for the game.”

Tulsa Oilers’ rookie Devin Williams earned ECHL Goalie of the Month honors for October (Photo/TeeJay Crawford Photography).

He enrolled at Acadia after he watched Erie teammates like McDavid, Nick Baptiste, Alex DeBrincat, and Dylan Strome get snatched up in NHL drafts.Teams took a pass on Devin despite his being a top OHL goalie, winning the Dave Pinkney Trophy in 2013-14 for having the league’s lowest goals-against average, being a second-team OHL all-star in 2015-16, and posting 73 wins in 102 games between 2014 and 2016.

Devin Williams played for the OHL’s Erie Otters from 2012-13 to 2015-16 (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).

While going to college helped keep Devin’s pro dreams alive, switching colleges helped re-ignite Charles’ pro ambitions.Charles had a decent career at NCAA Division I Ferris State University, posting a  22-15 record, 3.00 goals-against average, and a .899 save percentage over three seasons.

He missed the entire 2014-15 season at Ferris State because of injury. He was granted a fifth year of NCAA eligibility and transferred to Canisius, a D-I school in Buffalo, New York.

Goaltender Charles Williams was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given to NCAA Division I’s best college hockey player, for his 2016-17 season at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York (Photo/Canisius College).

There, he compiled a 15-6-4 record in 34 regular season appearances last season and helped lead the Golden Griffins on a 17-game unbeaten string.A 2017 Hobey Baker Award finalist, Charles led all NCAA D-I goalies with a .946 save percentage, tied for second with 6 shutouts, and his 1.83 goals-against average was second-best in the nation .

No wonder that Canisius named Charles its Male Athlete of the Year for 2017.

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Hispanic players continue blazing trails in hockey at all levels

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Peter Negron proudly wears his heritage on the back of his head.

The freshman goaltender for New York’s Hamilton College has the Cuban and American flags painted on the back plate of his mask, a tribute to his mother who came to the United States from the Caribbean island nation.

“It represents my heritage as a whole,” Negron told me recently. “My mom came over when she was three, so that’s where that comes from.”

The back of Hamilton College freshman goaltender Peter Negron’s mask pays tribute to his mother’s Cuban American roots (Photo/Courtesy Nelson Negron).

Hockey has come a long way since Scott Gomez became the National Hockey League’s first Hispanic player when he broke in with the New Jersey Devils in 1999-00.

Gomez, the son of a Mexican-American father and Colombian mother, retired in 2016, but his legacy continues. The four-team Liga Mexicana Elite launched south of the border in early November. Mexico City will host the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Under-18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group B Qualification in January.

And players of Hispanic heritage are thriving in hockey at all levels, helping to shed the notion that it’s an exclusively-white game.

“It’s not only the Hispanic culture, you’re seeing a lot more African-American players, a lot more Asian players,” Negron said. “I think it just shows the sport in itself is growing. It’s an appealing sport to people of all colors. It’s awesome.”

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Players of Hispanic descent are leading scorers on their teams, like Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, a Mexican-American who’s arguably already the best National Hockey League player from Arizona (sorry, Sean Couturier) in only his second season in the league.

They are team leaders, like Montreal Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty, a Connecticut-born left wing of American, French-Canadian, and Mexican Heritage.

They are Stanley Cup heroes, like Los Angeles Kings’ Alec Martinez, a defenseman from Michigan who traces his family history to Spain.

They are puck-stoppers, like Canadiens goaltender Al Montoya, who became the NHL’s first Cuban-American player when he was chosen sixth overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers.

Claudia Tellez is one of Mexico’s best women’s hockey players and was drafted by the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Calgary Inferno in 2016 (Photo/Courtesy RAAG Agency).

They are women, like Claudia Tellez, a Guadalajara born and raised member of Mexico’s national women’s hockey team and a 2016 eighth-round draft pick of the Calgary Inferno of the professional Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

And there are more players behind them, making their way up hockey’s ladder.

New York Rangers Cristoval “Boo” Nieves.

When Rangers fans serenade rookie center Cristoval Nieves  with boos, they’re not critiquing his on-ice performance – they’re calling him by his name.

“Boo” is shorthand for “Bugaboo,” a nickname Nieves’ parents game him. It’s now an affectionate cheer from the Rangers faithful to the 23-year-old, 6-foot-3, 212-pound forward who was a 2012 second-round draft pick.

Nieves, an Upstate New York native of Puerto Rican heritage, has no goals and 3 assists for the Rangers in 10 games this season. He had 6 goals and 12 assists in 40 games in 2016-17 for the Hartford Wolfpack, the Rangers’ American Hockey League farm team.

He was a star at the University of Michigan from 2012-13 to 2015-16, winning a Big 10 championship with the Wolverines in a senior year in which he had 10 goals and 21 assists in 35 regular season games.

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Evan Rodrigues probably knows where every pothole is on New York’s Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Rochester.

That’s because the 24-year-old center has traveled the roughly 73-mile stretch of highway several times over the last two seasons to play for the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans, the NHL team’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Buffalo Sabres forward Evan Rodrigues.

Rodrigues  played 30 games for the Sabres in 2016-17 and tallied 4 goals and 2 assists. He was named the Sabres’ Rookie of the Year.

He also appeared in 48 games for the Amerks that season and finished fourth among the team’s forwards with 21 assists and fifth in points with 30 – the combination of 9 goals and 21 assists.

Rodrigues has only appeared in six games for Rochester so far this season because of an injury. Still, he’s managed to get 2 goals and 4 assists.

Buffalo originally signed Rodrigues to a two-year entry-level NHL contract in April 2015 following his senior year at Boston University in which he recorded 21 goals and 40 assists in 41 games. The Sabres re-upped him in June to a two-year, $1.3 million deal.

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After two seasons with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Plymouth, Michigan, Florida-born forward Randy Hernandez has taken his talents to an even colder climate – Sioux City, South Dakota.

Randy Hernandez, Sioux City Musketeers.

The 6-foot, 176-pound 18-year-old right wing from Miami is skating this season for the Sioux City Musketeers in the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the U.S.. He has 2 goals and 3 assists in 14 games for the Musketeers.

Hernandez is the son of Cuban immigrants who arrived in the U.S. little more than 20 years ago.

Hockey has taken forward Randy Hernandez from hometown Miami, Florida, to Plymouth, Michigan to the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

His grandfather, a psychiatrist who arrived in Miami from Cuba via Spain in 1972, ignited Randy’s interest in hockey when he took him to a birthday party at Miami’s Kendall Ice Arena when he was six years old.

University of Maine forward Daniel Perez

Daniel Perez also went to a chillier place when he left balmy Jersey City, New Jersey for wintry Orono, Maine, to play hockey for the University of Maine Black Bears.

A 6-foot-4, 23-year-old junior forward, Perez has a goal and 1 assist in nine games for the NCAA Division I Black Bears this season.

He was a high school and junior hockey star, scoring 48 goals and 41 assists in 86 games over two seasons for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights of the Eastern Hockey League and  39 goals and 27 assists in 65 games for St. Peter’s Prep of Jersey City.

University of Maine junior forward Daniel Perez takes charge of the puck in traffic (Photo/Mark Tutuny).

Hockey runs in the Perez family. Daniel’s 16-year-old brother, Stephen Perez, played for St. Peter’s Prep, the Jersey Hitmen of the United States Premier Hockey League, and the Jersey Wildcats of the North American 3 Atlantic Hockey League.

Peter Negron is getting his first taste of collegiate hockey tending goal for Hamilton’s Continentals, an NCAA Division III team that was ranked 10th in the nation in early November.

The 19-year-old joined the team after playing at the Kent School, a Connecticut prep hockey power whose graduates include Boo Nieves, former New York Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano,  and Boston University hockey Head Coach David Quinn.

Hamilton College goalie Peter Negron.

Negron, who shares Cuban and Puerto Rican roots, caught the hockey bug from Andrew Margolin, a cousin who lived nearby in Mahwah, New Jersey.

Margolin was a goaltender on Boston College’s 2007-08 NCAA Frozen Four championship team before finishing his collegiate career at Division III Connecticut College.

“I remember vividly me always hanging out in his room and him putting me in the net to shoot the mini-hockey ball,” Negron said. “I remember always going in his basement, seeing all the goalie gear and really being into it. It always intrigued me.”

Peter Negron played high school hockey at the Kent School in Connecticut. So did New York Rangers center “Boo” Nieves.

Just as the game intrigued Scott Gomez, the NHL’s first Hispanic star. Gomez isn’t a player anymore, but he’s still in the game as an assistant coach this season with the New York Islanders.

“This is what I know and this is what I want to be a part of,” Gomez told NHL.com in May. “To be able to give back and work with guys and see it on the ice…I’m definitely excited about that.”

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NHLPA helps keep the Tucker Road Ducks flying high after rink fire

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The Tucker Road Ducks, the proud pink jersey-wearing youth hockey team, is still flying high, despite being homeless after a fire severely damaged its home rink nearly a year ago.

The outpouring of support following the January 2017 blaze at the Tucker Road Ice Arena in Maryland’s Prince George’s County continued Monday as the NHL Players’ Association’s Goals & Dreams fund donated 25 sets of new hockey equipment to the minority-oriented youth hockey program.

The NHLPA learned of the Ducks’ hockey dilemma from Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik, who connected the youth team with the players’ organization.

Lack of home ice hasn’t kept Maryland’s Tucker Road Ducks down. The team finished first at a tournament in York, Pa., in March 2017,

The Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization and the Ducks Hockey Program are extremely happy about this grant award!” said Alexandria Briggs-Blake, president of the Tucker Road Parent Hockey Organization. “The cost of equipment is challenging for many. The Ducks are going to benefit greatly from the players’ generosity. It is all about supporting our kids and their love of hockey.”

The Goals & Dreams program helps youth hockey organizations around the world give children around the world a chance to play the game, Orpik said.

“After outlining what the Tucker Road Ducks organization has accomplished over the past three years and is going through since the arena fire, G&D was very interested and I am excited we can assist them,” he added.

The Ducks are a legacy of the Tucker Road rink’s “Give it a Shot” initiative, which provides equipment to kids interested in learning how to play hockey.

The initiative produced enough players three years ago to field a pee-wee/bantam team under the tutelage of Coach Rahman-Rahim B’ath and a cadre of parents like Briggs-Blake and Koi Hamm.

The team strives to make hockey accessible by making it affordable, charging  parents $250 a season, a fee that includes gear. Other youth teams in the area charge two or three times that amount for a season.

After January’s two-alarm blaze damaged the rink, the Washington-area hockey community opened its arms, rinks, and wallets to help the Ducks play through the 2016-17 season.

The team’s GoFundMe web page has raised $11,230, including $5,300 from The Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, a charitable organization affiliated with the Capitals.

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik told the NHL Players’ Association about the Tucker Road Ducks woes after rink fire.

The team received support from the Chicago Blackhawks, and Meghan Duggan of the U.S. women’s national hockey team.

The Maryland National Capital Parks & Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) is also doing its part. It unveiled a two-phase overview plan in October to rebuild the damaged rink and eventually add a second rink. The project could cost up to $20 million.

The damaged rink is projected to reopen by Fall 2019. In the meantime, the commission and the Ducks’ parent organization have arranged for ice time at the Herbert Wells Ice Arena in College Park, Maryland, and the Capital Clubhouse in Waldorf, Maryland.

Another rink, SkateQuest in Reston, Virginia, gave the Ducks free ice time during the summer.

“Not at inconvenient times, they were given ice on Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon,” said Briggs-Blake, whose son, Antonio, is a Tucker road rink alum who plays for the New Jersey 87’s in the Eastern Hockey League Premier. “It really helped.”

Still, Briggs-Blake said parents worried that not having a home rink would cause player recruitment and retention problems, which could put the program in jeopardy.  M-NCPPC came up with a solution to alleviate the concerns: a slickly-produced YouTube recruitment video.

“It helps give the team exposure and get African-American kids and all kids of all culture, creeds and all walks of life. That’s what the Tucker Road Ducks are all about,” Briggs-Blake said. “We’re hoping that kids come from everywhere to play.

“We know it’s a challenge,” she added. “But the ones that stick with us, they’ll be the first ones on the team when the new rink opens!”

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‘Saturday Night Live’ skit pokes fun at a black reporter covering hockey. Really?

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There’s an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” served up a heaping helping of flattery on last night’s show.

It featured a skit built on the old “black folks don’t know hockey” premise with Chance the Rapper playing an unhappily cold black New York Knicks sideline reporter filling in for the regular New York Rangers rink side reporter on MSG Networks and not knowing a lick about the sport.

The bit reminded of Tony X, a black man who became a social media sensation in 2016 when he stumbled upon a hockey game on television and delivered his own play-by-play of a sport that he never really watched before.

Even Tony thought the SNL skit had a little him in it.

The skit got rave reviews on social media.

Let’s laugh, by all means, but let’s not forget – or fall into stereotypes.

There there are several great and knowledgeable black hockey broadcasters in the booth and at ice level. There’s MSG’s own Anson Carter, not a hockey newbie having scored 202 goals in a 10-season National Hockey League career: NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes, a former goaltender who appeared in 348 NHL Games; David Amber, co-host of “Hockey Night in Canada’s” Saturday late game; Tarik el Bashir who appears on Washington Capitals broadcasts on NBC Sports Washington;  and Trevor Thompson, who works Detroit Red Wings games for Fox Sports Detroit.

And, oh yeah, even black rappers know a thing or two about ice hockey.

SNL also had a musical skit with Chance the Rapper and cast members Kenan Thompson and Chris Redd crooning “Come Back Barack,” a homage to former President Barack Obama.

I thought the Second City comedy troupe’s “We’re Going to Miss You Barack” skit  from its “Black Side of the Moon” show last year was better.

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Noel and Woo join Akil Thomas as potential NHL first-round draft picks

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Two players of color have been upgraded to potential first-round picks in the 2018 National Hockey League Draft in June by NHL Central Scouting.

Serron Noel, a forward for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League, and defensman Jett Woo of the Western Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Warriors were elevated to “A” ratings from “B” ratings last week by Central Scouting.

NHL Central Scouting has elevated Oshawa Generals forward Serron Noel to an “A” rating, meaning he’s considered as a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).

An A rating designates players as potential first-round candidates. A B rating indicates a player is a likely second or third-round pick in the June 22-23 draft at Dallas’ American Airlines Center.

Noel, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound right wing and son of a former Canadian Football League player, has 10 goals 4 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 18 games for Oshawa.

“Noel is a power forward who is a strong skater with deceptive outside speed to separate himself from checking and quickness by pulling away on the rush,” NHL Central Scouting Director Dave Marr told NHL.com. “He works hard on the forecheck, forcing turnovers and finishing hits.”

Woo, a 6-foot, 200-pound blue liner, has 6 goals, 11 assists and 20 penalty minutes in 18 games for the Warriors.

“He’s a point-a-game player now, runs the first power-play unit and plays with a lot more poise and patience with the puck,” Central Scouting’s John Williams told NHL.com. “He’s not likely a power play guy in the NHL, but more of a two-way guy who can bring a physical element with enough skill to contribute.”

Moose Jaw Warriors defenseman Jett Woo has played for Team Canada and is now projected as a potential first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft (Photo/ Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

He also owns one of the coolest first names in hockey, though he has no idea why his father chose it.

“I know he’s a fan of (Chinese actor/producer) Jet Li, but I don’t know if that’s why I got the name. I like my name, though,” Woo told the International Ice Hockey Federation’s Andrew Podnieks in April.

Niagara IceDogs forward Akil Thomas began the 2017-18 season as a prospective first-round selection in the 2018 NHL Draft (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).

Noel and Woo join Akil Thomas, a forward for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs as minority players who could hear NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman call their name in the first round of the Dallas draft.

A 5-foot-11, 170-pound right wing, Thomas has 5 goals, 16 assists and 8 penalty minutes in 20 games for the IceDogs. He tallied 21 goals and 27 assists in 61 games in his rookie season with Niagara.

The three 17-year-olds  played for Canada’s gold medal-winning team at the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup tournament last August in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Thomas tallied 2 goals and 4 assists in five tournament games while Noel had a goal in five contests. Woo, an assistant captain on the team, went scoreless.

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Filmmaker joins call for Willie O’Ree and Herb Carnegie Hockey Hall induction

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Damon Kwame Mason, a talented filmmaker and good friend, is as passionate about minorities in hockey as I am – if not more.

He gave his all to produce and direct “Soul on Ice, Past, Present & Future,” an award-winning black hockey history documentary. Now Kwame is giving his all to push for the inductions of Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player, and Herb Carnegie, a black man who the late hockey legend Jean Beliveau called one of the best players not to play in the NHL, into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Damon Kwame Mason (right) interviewed hockey great Herb Carnegie before he passed away in March 2012.

On a day the Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2017, Kwame wrote a passionate Facebook post laying out the case for letting O’Ree and Carnegie into hockey’s shrine. Below is his eloquent and thoughtful post:

As most of you know I made the documentary Soul On Ice: Past, Present & Future which is about the history and contributions of black athletes in hockey, the subject of diversity and inclusion in the game has become something that I am passionate about and as a fan of the game I have taken it on my back to do my part to help grow this beautiful game. I don’t have a huge platform but I feel like I am doing ok and hope it will grow. I still am blessed to be able to screen the film for audiences and on special occasions with the support of the NHL I get to be apart of q&a’s with guys like Willie O’ree and Bryce Salvador. I feel like since the film has come out I have a new purpose and I will do what ever I can to make sure minority children all around the WORLD (yeah I think big lol) gives the beautiful game of Hockey a chance. With that being said here’s something I wanted to run by you all.

Willie O’Ree made history when he entered the NHL with the Boston Bruins in 1958.

HOCKEY HALL OF FAME 2018

I will try not to make this a long rant but if it is my apologies in advance.

The HOF class of 2017 has been inducted this past Monday and I would like to congratulate all the new members as they are all well deserved.

But I’d like to speak about two men that I feel have been deserving of this honour for a very long time. The two men I speak of are Herbert H Carnegie and Willie O’ree.

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You can make it into the Hall Of Fame as either a player or a builder of the game. Mr. Carnegie did not have a chance to play in the NHL and Mr. O’ree did not have a huge impact on the game to be put into the Player category. But they can and should be inducted as Builders and here is why.

Willie O’ree has worked with the NHL for 30 years in there Diversity Task Force. The program was put together to help introduce and give opportunities to play Hockey directing their efforts to under privileged children in the United States. The program started out small, 5 in total, 30 years later there are over 30 in North America. Willie flies around the country countless amounts of times to give speeches, and visits these children to inspire them to not just continue and love the game of hockey but to get an education and be good people. I have witness the long lines, long stares and countless questions about that history making day when he entered the National Hockey League. Needless to say at the age of 82 years old, that’s right 82 years old he still gets on a plane when ever asked and continues to speak and promote the game of hockey to minorities all over the county. THAT IN MY OPINION IN BUILDING THE GAME.

Herbert H Carnegie on the ice was considered one of the best to play the game in his era. He had a 17 year long career starting in 1938 and ending in 1954. Hall of fame inductee Jean Beliveau had the opportunity to have Herb as a mentor and has stated in the past that Herb should have played in the NHL because he was just that good. Having to watch his peers go on to have careers in the NHL Herb held his head high and continued to win scoring titles and MVP awards. He lead his pro teams to 4 different championships, voted MOST VALUABLE PLAYER 3 YEARS IN A ROW 1947, 1948 and 1949. Again, even though he was the best leagues just below the NHL he was never given the change to play in the big leagues.
But that is not what this is about. This is about why he should be inducted as a builder in the 2018 HOF class.

Herb Carnegie checking his skates out before playing with the Quebec Aces.

Herb played centre to the first All Black line in semi pro hockey inspiring future black players that heard or seen them play like Willie Oree. After his career was over he established the FUTURE ACES HOCKEY SCHOOL in 1958, THE FIRST REGISTERED HOCKEY SCHOOL in Canada. As an inventor Mr Carnegie created a hockey instructional board called the Carnegie System (later called Coach a Boy which you can see used by coaches to this day). As an inventor he created a hockey game called PASS AND SCORE endorsed by legendary coach Punch Imlach and and Hall of fame member Frank Mahovlich. The FUTURE ACES philosophy he developed for the Hockey school has become a tool to build character in public schools all across Canada. In 1990 Herb Carnegie was featured in Marvel Comics Spider Man as he helped the web slinger fight off criminals trying to ship drugs in Hockey pucks. Lastly Herb Carnegie carries the Order of Canada, Queen Elizabeth Diamond, Golden, and Silver Jubilee Medal. He has been inducted into 9 sports hall of fames across Canada… when will he have his day in the biggest one.

So with that being said, I would like to figure out a way to get an online petition going to with at least 100,000 signatures that I can hand in to the Hall Of Fame gatekeepers to get these in as they are well deserving and MAN OH MAN how BIG WOULD THAT BE FOR THE GAME OF HOCKEY. It would say so much and would go a long way to the idea of HOCKEY IS FOR EVERYONE.

Please leave a comment and any suggestions you may have on how I should go about this mission.

p.s I reached out to Hall of Fame member Luc Robitaille about inducting Herb Carnegie into this years class with a 17 page outline on why Herb should be inducted. Obviously it was not enough, this year I want to add a petition to it and include Willie O’ree

Have a great day and let me know what you think and I would also love your help.

Kwame

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.

Former NWHLer Blake Bolden finds hockey happiness in Switzerland

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Subtract the final two letters from Blake Bolden’s last name and you’ve summed up the type of move she’s made this hockey season.

After two seasons with the Boston Pride, defenseman Blake Bolden is playing this season with HC Lugano (Photo/NWHL).

Bolden has left what she’s known for more than eight years – history-making stardom in the National Women’s Hockey League, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and Boston College –  to start over in a different league and different country.

The first African-American player  in the NWHL and CWHL is patrolling the blue line this season as a defenseman for HC Lugano, a professional women’s team in southern Switzerland.

“I just wanted a fresh start, something I’ve never done before, a new experience,” Bolden  told me weeks before she boarded a Swissair flight from Boston to her new hockey season home. “I’ve played in every league I could possible play in North America. I didn’t think it was time for me to quit and I really just wanted to put myself out of my comfort zone and experience new things and be able to travel in a basically different environment.”

Bolden discusses her move, the decision behind it, and her hockey future in the latest Color of Hockey podcast.

She stresses that her desire to have an international hockey experience was the main factor in her packing her stick bag and heading off to Switzerland.

But Bolden added that the feeling that she wasn’t given due consideration by USA Hockey for a spot on the 2018 U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team that will compete in South Korea in February made her decision easier.

HC Lugano defenseman Blake Bolden, right, in Swiss women’s league action.

Bolden figured she had the hockey pedigree to at least earn look. She won a CWHL championship with the Boston Blades in 2014-15 and was a league all-star. She hoisted the NWHL championship trophy in 2015-16 and earned all-star honors with Boston Pride.

She captained Boston College’s women’s team 2012-13, and skated on gold medal-winning U.S. national teams at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s Under-18 World championships in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

An April 2017 Boston Globe piece questioned why Bolden wasn’t in the mix for the Winter Olympics, quoting former teammates and coaches who said she deserved a shot at a roster spot.

From her native Ohio to Boston to Lugano. oh, the places hockey has taken defenseman Blake Bolden.

The story added that Bolden’s “supporters say Team USA not only has wronged Bolden but has squandered an opportunity to broaden its appeal to girls of color, who are chronically underrepresented in the game.”

Bolden’s says she was cut from the U.S. national team program about three years ago and doesn’t know why.

“I’ve spent a lot of time, I guess, coping with that,” she told me. “Not being kicked off, but cut from the team, it’s been hard. I can’t imagine all of the girls who have been cut from the national team and have gotten their dreams kind of ripped out from underneath them.

HC Lugano defenseman Blake Bolden, right, shares a moment with one of her new teammates.

“It takes a really long time to believe in yourself again, to find that confidence after someone said, basically, you’re not good enough when you really know that you are,” Bolden added.

A USA Hockey official told me last week that Bolden was looked at for the 2018 Olympic team but declined to comment further on player personnel matters.

In April, Rob Koch, a USA Hockey spokesman, told the Boston Globe in April that “As part of the National Women’s Hockey League, Blake has been heavily scouted along with other potential U.S. players and therefore will continue to receive the appropriate consideration.”

With no Olympics invite in sight, Bolden said that embarking on a new hockey adventure in Switzerland is helping her look forward, not back.

Que bella! Love it here 💛

A post shared by Blake Bolden (@sportblake) on

“I don’t really think about the past, ‘Well, I didn’t make the Olympic team, poor me.’ That’s not really my personality,” she told me. “I’m going to make my own path. That’s what I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and I picked up a hockey stick. I’m going to make my own path, blaze my own trail. That’s what Blake Bolden does best.”

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.