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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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