‘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

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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.”

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Love conquers all as two U.S.-Canada women’s hockey rivals become moms

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Julie Chu and Caroline Ouellette have shared the bitter United States-Canada women’s hockey rivalry.

Forward Julie Chu competed in five Winter Olympics for the United States (Photo/Nancie Battaglia)

But love conquers all and Chu, a former captain of the U.S. women’s team, and Ouellette, a former skipper for Canada, shared a blessed event last week when Ouellette gave birth to the couple’s first child. They shared the news Tuesday on Instagram.

Chu, 35, is the first Asian-American to play for the U.S. national women’s team and she competed in five Winter Olympics, winning silver medals in 2002, 2010, and 2014. Her team won a bronze medal in 2016.

She was the first person of color to be a U.S. flag bearer at a Winter Olympics closing ceremony when she carried the Stars and Stripes at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Chu, tied as the second-most decorated U.S. female athlete in Winter Olympics history, was named head coach of Concordia University’s women’s hockey team in Montreal in 2016.

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Ouellette, 38, won Olympic gold in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. She retired from the Canadian national team in 2015 and currently plays for  Les Canadiennes de Montreal. She was carrying Liv Chu-Ouellette when Montreal won the Canadian Women’s Hockey League’s Clarkson Cup  in March.

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USA Hockey’s K’Andre Miller proves that looks, and stereotypes, can be deceiving

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K’Andre Miller remembers getting occasional odd looks or sometimes racially-coded responses after telling people what sport he plays.

K’Andre Miller, defense, USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).

“They didn’t see me as ‘the hockey player type.’ I was a long, skinny kid. I looked like a basketball player,” Miller told me recently. “Every time I would go out to eat, people would be, like, ‘Oh, you play basketball, don’t you?’ I’d be like, ‘No, I actually play hockey.’ And they’d be like ‘Wow, you don’t really look like that type of player.'”

As a defenseman on USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program Under-18 squad, Miller is proving them wrong.

The 6-foot-3, 191-pound 17-year-old from Minnetonka, Minnesota, is blossoming into a blue-chip blue-liner for the NTDP after making the switch from forward only two season ago.

Miller, who’ll turn 18 on Jan. 21, will be eligible for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft in June in Dallas. NHL Central Scouting gave Miller a “B” rating last month, meaning he’s projected to be second or third-round pick.

He played in the 2017 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, New York, in September. He’s tallied 2 assists in the U.S. National Under-18 team’s first 13 games of the 2017-18 season and notched 3 goals and 14 assists in 54 games for the Under-17 squad in 2016-17.

NHL Central Scouting projects defenseman K’Andre Miller to be a second or third-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft in June (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).

Headquartered in Plymouth, Michigan, the national team development program competes internationally, and also plays U.S. colleges and teams in the United States Hockey League, the nation’s only Tier 1 junior league.

While Miller has his sights set on playing in the NHL, he’ll attend the University of Wisconsin first.

He’s committed to play for the Badgers and Head Coach Tony Granto – who’s also the bench boss for the 2018 U.S. Winter Olympics men’s hockey team in South Korea in February – starting in the 2018-19 season.

If  Miller achieves his NHL goal, give an assist to to Minnesota Wild team captain Mikko Koivu.

“For my ninth birthday, I went down to Dallas to watch the Stars play the Wild,” Miller told me. “We went down to the locker room after the game and Mikko came up to me, shook my hand, said happy birthday, and asked when the next time I would be at a home game in Minnesota because he was going to try to get me a stick.

K’Andre Miller looks forward to playing in the NHL someday. But first he’ll play for the University of Wisconsin, starting next season (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).

“I went back to the rink in Minnesota about two months later and he picked me out in the stands, he had the trainer come up with a stick and hand it right to me,” Miller added. “That was probably the coolest experience I think I’ve ever had with an NHL player.”

That experience helped seal the deal for Miller wanting to become a professional hockey player. But Miller’s uncle, Ken, should also get an assist for exposing his nephew to the game at an early age.

“He would take me out on the rink when I was little,” Miller recalled. “I started skating when I was two and he kind of helped me, put a stick in my hand, kind of taught me the game.

“I’d go over to his house whenever I wanted to and just watch games with him,” he added. “One of the cool things I still like about my Uncle Ken is whenever I usually go over there, we play roller hockey in his backyard.”

K’Andre Miller, right, is all smiles playing for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey).

Minnesota has produced several talented black hockey players, including Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, forwards Kyle Okposo of the Buffalo Sabres and J.T. Brown of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Keegan Iverson, a 2014 NHL draftee who plays for the Ontario Reign, the Los Angeles Kings’ American Hockey League farm team.

But that hasn’t stopped some folks from wondering what the tall black kid from Minnetonka is doing on the ice with a stick in his hand. Miller takes pride in showing doubters that he’s built for the NHL.

“It’s always been my motivation to prove to people that no matter what your skin color is, what you look like in general, you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it,” he said. “When I see people of color in my community in Minnetonka and Hopkins trying to play hockey, I always go up to them whenever I can and straight-up tell them ‘Don’t listen to what anybody says. Play whatever you want to play, if it’s hockey, soccer, lacrosse, tennis, whatever you want to do. Just do it.'”

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Richard Park seeks Winter Olympics ‘Miracle’ for South Korea’s hockey team

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Richard Park won’t say that South Korea’s men’s Olympic ice hockey team will win a medal at the 2018 Winter Games debut in February. But….

South Korean men’s hockey team Assistant Coach Richard Park. Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn/
Minnesota Wild

“It’s a short tournament and anything can happen,” Park told me recently. “You use the word ‘miracle,’ you think of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, the ‘Miracle on Ice.’ It’s happen before. If we can come close to matching that, or even duplicating it, it will be an amazing accomplishment.”

It’s been an amazing hockey journey for Park, a retired forward who played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and New York Islanders.

The journey has come full circle for Park. He’s returned to the country of his birth to serve as assistant director and assistant coach for a South Korean men’s team that will compete in its first Winter Olympics when it takes to the Gangneung Hockey Center ice in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Feb. 15 to face the Czech Republic.

Park discusses South Korea’s upcoming Olympic experience, the rise of hockey in Asia, and reflects on his NHL career in the latest Color of Hockey podcast.

While Park won’t predict a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal for South Korea, he says that the 2018 Olympic hockey tournament will be dramatically different from previous Winter Games because the NHL isn’t releasing its players to compete for their countries.

With no Sidney Crosby for Canada, no Patrick Kane, for the United States, no Alex Ovechkin for Russia, and no Henrik Lundqvist  for Sweden, the tournament could be ripe for a surprise.

“It doesn’t directly have an affect on us like other countries,” Park said of the absence of NHL superstars. “But it does have an affect on us because it changes the playing field for us. We’ll see. Hopefully we can turn that into an advantage.”

South Korea has already surprised the hockey world. Under Head Coach Jim Paek and Park, the team finished second at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Division I Group A tournament in Kiev in April.

Richard Park was a forward for the Minnesota Wild for three seasons and is currently a development coach for the team (Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn/Minnesota Wild).

The showing earned South Korea a promotion to the IIHF’s top division, joining the ranks of the United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and other hockey powers.

“Korea has never ever been close, let alone in the top division in the world of hockey,”  Park said. “It’s huge. It’s big, it’s never been done before.”

Park’s team now faces the daunting task of trying to win in Group A at the Olympic hockey tournament, a bracket that includes powerhouses Canada and the Czech Republic and always pesky Switzerland.

“It’s really the first time we’ll be playing at that caliber,” Park told me. “We’ll do okay.”

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‘Soul on Ice’ movie resonates with minority hockey legends in England

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LONDON – They sat in the back of the movie theater last weekend, transfixed by Canadian filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason’s “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future.”

“I felt like he was telling our story,” Brian Biddulph said after the London premiere of Mason’s award-winning documentary that chronicles the history, struggles, and growing impact of black players in North America and in the National Hockey League.

The movie spoke to Biddulph, a Londoner who played pro and semi-pro hockey in from 1982 to 2000. The rugged defenseman suffered through being called “Leroy” – after character Leroy Robinson from the 1980s hit movie and television show “Fame” – by white teammates at a Team Great Britain training camp.

It spoke to Charles Dacres, who had a lengthy playing career in the United Kingdom and is currently a director for the English Ice Hockey Association and a board member for Ice Hockey U.K., the kingdom’s governing body for the sport.

A scene in the film in which forward Val James, who was the NHL’s first U.S.-born black player, is showered with racial epithets by fans during a 1981 minor league game in Virginia took Dacres back to a racially unruly road game that he endured during his playing days.

There “was a mob of guys that were actually outside the changing room, baying for my blood, wanting me to come out,” Dacres recalled.

“We wound up being escorted out of that city – police escort out of the city,” he said. “I was the only black guy on the team. They were waiting for me on the exit route from the rink. We had to go out the back door. It probably was one of the worst moments of my life.”

It spoke to Mohammed Ashraff, a former Ice Hockey U.K. president. It spoke to Erskine Douglas, who captained and coached pro teams in England and served as the head of coaching for the EIHA.

It spoke to Eddie Joseph, a former semi-pro player who’s paying it forward hockey-wise through a “Hockey is for Everyone”-type program he runs at an East London rink.

U.K. minority hockey legends, left to right, Charles Dacres, Mohammed Ashraff, Brian Biddulph, London Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder, Erskine Douglas, and Eddie Joseph at “Soul on Ice, Past, Present and Future” screening in London.

The documentary also spoke to London Deputy Mayor Matthew Ryder, who marveled at the impact that black Canadians and Americans have had on hockey.

Ryder and the EIHA helped make the “Soul on Ice”  showing possible as part of the U.K.’s Black History Month activities. The deputy mayor came away from the screening with a lesson that the United Kingdom has a rich minority hockey history of its own.

Dacres said the plight of minority players in the United Kingdom has improved since the days that he, Ashraff, Douglas, Joseph, and Biddulph skated.

There’s still a long way to go, Dacres added. And bringing a film like “Soul on Ice” to England helps.

“It’s important to recognize that not only did this film raise awareness of black players in the NHL, it raised awareness of ice hockey in the UK and the impact that minorities face in trying to access a sport where the playing numbers of ethnic minorities is significantly less than one percent,” he said.

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Harnarayan Singh adds masala to ‘Hockey Night in Canada’s’ Punjabi broadcast

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How much does Harnarayan Singh love hockey?

“My wife and I had our wedding at a hockey arena and we had a ceremonial face-off between her and I,” Singh told me recently. “Life-sized Stanley Cup cake, mini-hockey sticks with out names engraved for everyone, we had hockey cards of ourselves and the stats were cool. My wife was “Rookie of the Year” because it was her first year teaching. It was a hoot.”

Hockey is as big a part of Singh as his Sikh faith and Canadian heritage. He combines them all when he gets behind the mic and calls games for  “Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition,” the sister broadcast to “Hockey Night in Canada.”

Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition announcer Harnarayan Singh, right, with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

His classic call of the game-winning goal by then-Pittsburgh Penguins forward Nick Bonino in Game 1 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final made him a social media sensation and catapulted “Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition” into the mainstream.

Singh isn’t an overnight sensation. He’s been calling games in Punjabi – Canada’s third-most spoken language behind English and French –  since 2008 as part of “Hockey Night in Canada’s” effort to develop a more diverse audience.

You can hear Singh converse about his career, growing up Sikh in Canada, and the impact of “Hockey Night’s” Punjabi broadcast on the nation’s South Asian community in the latest episode of the Color of Hockey podcast.

Singh has achieved what many people thought he couldn’t: to become a prominent face of  hockey while speaking Punjabi and wearing the turban and ample beard that signifies his heritage and faith.

“If this could happen to me, a guy from Brooks, Alberta, a small town in southern Alberta, and with how I look and with people telling me it was impossible, if my dream could come true, why can’t it for anyone else?” he said.

Still, Singh says he occasionally hears from viewers who challenge the need for a hockey broadcast beyond English or French.

“You do get these sorts of comments where a person, I think, might not understand where  we’re coming from and why we’re doing this,” he said. “But when you explain to them how this is benefiting the sport of hockey and how beneficial this is to grow the sport of hockey, I think some of those perspectives can be changed.”

Singh says he and his “Hockey Night” Punjabi crew bring the masala – a spiciness – to their broadcast that reflects their South Asian roots and connects with their audience.

And they’ve had to be creative to do it as several hockey words and phrases don’t translate in Punjabi. So Singh made up his own, including the popular “chapared shot,” using the Punjabi word for slap in the face to describe a slap shot.

The Hockey Night in Canada Punjabi Edition commentators. Left to right, Randip Janda, Harnarayan Singh, Harpreet Pandher, and Bhupinder Hundal.

“The Punjabi community, they love to laugh, they love their food, they love their music, they wear vibrant colors, they talk loud,” Singh told me. “We try to incorporate those community characteristics on our calls and have fun with it.”

In doing so, Singh and his crew are helping members of Canada’s growing South Asian community weave themselves into the fabric of the country. Hockey is, after all, as Canadian as it gets.

Indians make up nearly 4 percent of Canada’s overall population and Sikhs account for less than 1.5 percent of the population. Canada has the world’s second-largest Sikh population outside of India with over 455,000 with most of them living in British Columbia and the Toronto area.

“When we first began the show I don’t think anyone could have even imagine the impact it would have on the community,” he told me. “First and foremost, I think it made the community feel proud of themselves that they had made it as a part of Canadian society.

“There’s also been some cool stories from people who say that at their workplace, having hockey in Punjabi and understanding the sport, has helped develop better relationships and rapport at work,” he added. “They’re able to talk about last night’s game. I mean, hockey is that water cooler topic in Canada.”

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