The Calgary Flames‘ 3-2 win Saturday over the Edmonton Oilers had little impact on the standings – neither National Hockey League Western Conference team is within Stanley CupPlayoffs range.
However, the game at Calgary’s Saddledome was meaningful in terms of the diversity that was on display, further showing that the face of hockey is steadily changing.
The game featured the NHL debut of Flames forward Spencer Foo, a high-scoring former star at NCAA Division I Union College. An Edmonton native, Foo played 12:45 minutes, including 1:20 minutes on the power play, and registered a shot on goal.
Giving instructions to Foo and other Flames players was assistant coach Paul Jerrard, currently the only black NHL coach who stands the bench during games. He traded a stick for a clipboard after a minor league hockey career that spanned from 1987-88 to 1996-97. He did appear in five games for the Minnesota North Stars in 1988-89.
“There isn’t anybody of color I emulated in coaching, I just wanted to push hard and work and see where it would take me,” Jerrard told Canada’s Sportsnet in February. “It would be interesting to see what would happen if there was a black coach in the league. There might be one someday, I don’t know.”
Trying to keep Foo and the youthful Flames at bay on the Oilers back end Saturday night were defensemen Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear and goaltender Al Montoya.
Nurse was the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, one of two black blue-liners chosen in the first round. The other was Columbus Blue Jackets defender Seth Jones (chosen fourth overall by the Nashville Predators). Nurse has 6 goals and 19 assists in 79 games for the Oilers.
Bear, who is from the Ochapowace First Nation in southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada, was an Edmonton 2015 fifth-round draft pick. The NHL rookie has a goal and 3 assists in 15 games with the Oilers.
Oilers left wing Jujhar Khaira, a Canadian of South Asian heritage, logged 11:02 minutes of ice time Saturday night, including 59 seconds on the power play and 1:15 minutes killing penalties.
Khaira, an Oilers 2013 third-round pick, has 11 goals and 10 assists in 66 games for Edmonton.
Diversity in Saturday’s game wasn’t limited to players and coaches. Shandor Alphonso, a black Canadian, was one of the two linesmen working the game.
And, of course, David Amber manned the broadcast studio as host of Hockey Night in Canada’s late game.
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