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.
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.
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.
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.”