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NASHVILLE  – The Black Girl Hockey Club got a heaping helping of Southern hockey hospitality over the weekend.

The group of female hockey fans of color took in the Nashville Predators-St. Louis Blues matinee Sunday followed by the 2019 National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game at Bridgestone Arena.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban met with the Black Girl Hockey Club, which gathered for the Predators game against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.

The Preds and the NWHL gave BGHC members and supporters the ya’ll come treatment.  The Predators hosted a Saturday morning skating session for the group on Bridgestone Arena ice and showed Canadian filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason’s award-winning “Soul on Ice, Past, Present & Future” black hockey history documentary on the stadium’s Jumbotron.

BGHC members met Predators defenseman P.K. Subban after the Blues 5-4 win over Nashville. The game’s outcome didn’t diminish Subban’s graciousness in posing for pictures and chatting with the group.

The NWHL reserved a prime seating spot for BGHC at the All-Star game’s skills competition which was held Saturday at a packed Ford Ice Center, the Predators’ practice facility.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban talks with Black Girl Hockey Club member Eunice Artis while signing the T-shirt of her son, Isaiah Artis.

The women watched Buffalo Beauts defender Blake Bolden win the hardest shot contest by launching an 80-miles-per-hour slap shot. Bolden, the only black woman on the two NWHL All-Star squads, said she was pumped by the BGHC presence.

“It’s so great, I definitely noticed when my name was called you guys were hollering, it made me feel so good,” Bolden, who has 1 goal and 7 assists in 13 games with Buffalo this season, told the group after the competition. “I appreciate you guys so much being there.”

Blake Bolden, a defender with the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts shares a moment with Black Girl Hockey Club member Rayla Wilkes, 6, at the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game skills competition Saturday in Nashville.

Nearly three dozen women of color, their families and friends, journeyed from California, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Washington, D.C., and Georgia to attend the weekend festivities and bask in the soul sisterhood of hockey fandom.

The Black Girl Hockey Club was founded by Renee Hess, a Riverside, California, woman who sought to gather a critical mass of women of color who, like her, are interested in hockey but might be hesitant to attend games in stadiums where minority fans are truly a minority.

A dapper Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban signs autographs and poses for pictures with the Black Girl Hockey Club in Smashville Sunday afternoon.

“The whole reason I wanted to come to Nashville was to see the girls play,” Hess said of the NWHL players. “I’ve seen them on video, but never live, so this is really cool. They’re fast, they’re good, I got to see some (Olympic) gold medalists skate today, I mean that’s really awesome.”

Buffalo Beauts defender Blake Bolden, back, and members of the Black Girl Hockey Club after Bolden won the hardest shot competition at the 2019 NWHL All-Star Game festivities in Nashville.

Lisa Ramos drove nine hours from Biloxi, Mississippi, to join the BGHC meet-up in Nashville. She said the drive was no sweat since she and her husband sometimes drive to Canada see her son,  defenseman Ayodele Adeniye, play for the Carleton Place Canadians, a Junior A team in the Central Canada Hockey League.

Adeniye has committed to play hockey next season for the University of Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, an NCAA Division I team in the  Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“It’s been great getting together with other black female hockey fans and just enjoy the sport, talk about the sport, find out how they came to the sport of hockey – everybody came through different avenues,” Ramos said.

Eunice Artis and her teenage son, Isaiah Artis, said they “felt at home” attending the NWHL events and the Predators game. They ventured to Nashville from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

“It’s nice to see a lot of people of color enjoying hockey,” Eunice Artis said. “You go to hockey games, whether it’s my son playing or a professional games, and literally you’re the only person there or you’re one of two people there. I just feel there’s unity here and I feel at home. It was great seeing the women play, especially a professional woman of color (Bolden) bringing it home.”

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