Southern comfort: Black Girl Hockey Club attends Predators, NWHL All-Star games


, , , , ,

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.”

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.






‘Chef Jojo,’ Willie, and the bobblehead hang out at a D.C. hockey charity game


, , , ,

Sometimes pictures say it all, but we’ll take a few words anyway.

Joel “Chef Jojo” Thomas cherishes four things: Cooking, hockey, the Anaheim Ducks, and Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree.

Clad in a Ducks jersey and carrying a Willie O’Ree bobblehead, Thomas ventured to Washington’s Capital One Arena Wednesday night to watch the annual Congressional Hockey Challenge between a team of D.C. lobbyists and a squad of lawmakers and to meet his idol, O’Ree, who was the National Hockey League’s first black player.

Mission accomplished.

Joel “Chef Jojo” Thomas with Hockey Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree at Capital One Arena in Washington.

To call Thomas hardcore hockey would be an understatement. The Washington, D.C.-area chef is a forward in a men’s league at the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Maryland, and helps out when he can with the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, North America’s oldest minority youth hockey program.

Thomas got hooked on hockey after seeing “The Mighty Ducks” movie as a kid and became an NHL Ducks fan back in the days when that team was Mighty.

And left wing Paul Kariya was his player, so much so that he made the journey to Anaheim in October 2018 to watch the Ducks retire Kariya’s number. He made the pilgrimage to Toronto to witness Kariya’s induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.

The Black Girl Hockey Club road show continues with N.Y. Rangers visit


, , , , , ,

NEW YORKThe Black Girl Hockey Club took Manhattan over the weekend.

The group of women of color and their supporters attended the New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning game at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, visited the National Hockey League’s Manhattan office, and met Commissioner Gary Bettman Friday.

The group also did a walk-through of the American Legacy Black Hockey History Tour –  a 525 square-foot mobile museum that will tour six U.S. cities as part of the league’s and the National Hockey League Players’ Association’s celebration of Black History Month.

“It’s really just fun to see women who look like me, especially women who are older than me, who like hockey. I’ve not seen that,” said Fatou Bah, an events/marketing/social media entrepreneur and die-hard Washington Capitals fan, who attended the weekend’s festivities.

BGHC 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 arenas where minority fans are truly a minority.

The group held its first meet-up in Washington in December a drew more than 40 women and their children from across the country for a game between the Capitals and Buffalo Sabres.

Some Black Girl Hockey Club members take to the ice at Madison Square Garden after the New York Rangers-Tampa Bay Lightning game (Photo/Courtesy Fatou Bah).

The Rangers invited the group to New York and put on the hospitality with a tour of Madison Square Garden, an ice-level view of the team’s pre-game warm-up, and a meet-and-greet with right wing  Pavel Buchnevich and center Vladislav Namestnikov post-game.

The women also spoke with Anson Carter, the hockey analyst for New York’s MSG Network, NBC Sports Network, and veteran of 674 NHL games.

Black Girl Hockey Club members Fatou Bah, left, and Erica L. Ayala check out black hockey artifacts aboard an American Legacy traveling museum parked outside Madison Square Garden last week as part of the NHL’s Black History Month celebration ((Photo/Jared Silber/MSG Photos).

“We’re trying to diversify our fan base, right? And it’s not just with men, it’s women, too.” Carter said. “To see the Black Girl Hockey Club coming and the momentum that they’re getting, it’s getting parents to see other black women that are down with hockey, too. It’s all about the parents, as far as I’m concerned. If you can get the parents convinced and hooked, then the kids are going to play.”

Stephane Clare arrived from Brooklyn for Saturday’s game in the Full Lundqvist – adorned in a blue Rangers jersey with All-Star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist’s name and number 30 on the back. She was excited to join the BGHC meet-up and have company inside MSG.

Black Girl Hockey Club member Stephane Clare takes a tour of a mobile museum dedicated to black hockey history parked outside Madison Square Garden Saturday (Photo/Jared Silber/MSG Photos).

“Usually I’m the only one at the game – it’s a little better when I go to Islanders games in Brooklyn – but, yeah, at MSG I’m very much in the minority. The more people that get involved with (hockey), off all races and genders, hockey should be much bigger than it is. It’s a great game.”

NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes, rear right, photo bombs Color of Hockey’s William Douglas, Black Girl Hockey Club members and New York Rangers center Vladislav Namestnikov after Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Madison Square Garden (Photo/Rebecca Taylor/MSG Photos).

BGHC’s next stop? Nashville next weekend for a February 10 matinee between the Predators and St. Louis Blues.

The Smashville weekend coincides with the National Women’s Hockey League  All-Star Game, where BGHC members will see Buffalo Beauts defender Blake Bolden and the rest of the league’s best players in action.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman with Black Girl Hockey Club member Fatou Bah at the league’s New York office Friday (Photo/Courtesy Fatou Bah).

BGHC mebers will also be in the house at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center February 16 to watch the New York Islanders take on the Edmonton Oilers.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.








Divyne Apollon’s Metro Maple Leafs and Baltimore’s Banners face-off against hate


, , , , ,

BALTIMORE – Good deeds and goodwill continue to flow following the racist on-ice taunts that Washington, D.C.-area hockey player Divyne Apollon II suffered in December, an episode that drew national attention.

Apollon and his mostly-white Metro Maple Leafs of Odenton, Maryland, traveled to nearby Baltimore Sunday for a Scrimmage Against Hate with the city’s  mostly-black Banners youth hockey program.

The Banners reached out to the Maple Leafs after hearing about how Divyne, who is black, was taunted with monkey noises by members of a suburban Philadelphia hockey team during a tournament.

Baltimore’s Banners and the Washington, D.C.-area Metro Maple Leafs surround Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh after their Scrimmage Against Hate (Photo/Courtesy Bill Smillie).

Banners officials also invited the Old York Road Raiders, to participate in Sunday’s event but said they never received a response from the club.

So the Banners and Maple Leafs squared off in what was billed as a friendly exhibition that quickly turned into a friendly rivalry game. The Maple Leafs defeated the Banners 5-3 at Baltimore’s Mimi DiPietro Family Skating Center.

“Our kids never get this much excitement, usually they never get anybody to watch them play,” said Antoine Green, a volunteer for the non-profit Banners. “They wanted to show they can play.”

“It was fun, there was a lot of competition out there,” added 17-year-old Banners defenseman Daryo Fletcher. “We played our best. We just came up short.”

Metro Maple Leafs defenseman Divyne Apollon II in action against the Banners of Baltimore (Photo/Courtesy of Tiara Green).

The Banners certainly impressed Maple Leafs Head Coach Brad Howington, who said his team was fortunate to leave Baltimore with a win against a less-experienced but very determined opponent.

“That team gave us a run for our money,” Howington said. “They definitely could skate, their goalie was really, really good. They came out and played.”

And folks came out to watch. Banners and Maple Leafs supporters packed the metal bleachers inside the chilly domed rink and cheered the players on. The Scrimmage Against Hate’s message attracted the local media and some of Baltimore’s elected officials, including Mayor Catherine Pugh.

“What I saw out there was people who care about each other,” Pugh said. “You heard that at the end of the game. The young people, when they reached across to the other team, said ‘We’re family.'”

The mayor echoed the sentiments of the Maple Leafs players who rallied around Divyne after they learned that he had been racially taunted.

Their response and Divyne’s story became national news. Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman John Carlson were so impressed by way Maple Leafs players stood up for their teammate that they invited the entire team to the Caps’ home game against the St. Louis Blues on January 14.

Players from the Banners of Baltimore and the Metro Maple Leafs chase the puck during a Scrimmage Against Hate Sunday in Baltimore (Photo/Courtesy Tiara Green),

Maple Leafs players and parents said they want to continue speaking up and speaking out against racism in hockey, and they were thrilled when the Banners called and suggested the scrimmage.

The 15-year-old Banners program focuses on East Baltimore’s at-risk youth and scrapes by season after season largely through donations – monetary and equipment –  and the dedication of volunteers and coaches.

With limited funds, the team only practices on ice for an hour each week and only plays one or two games a season. Hockey is an expensive sport for families of means, and more so for those who don’t have.

“There are folks here who have taken in children who are homeless, and there are children out here without fathers,” Pugh said. “So they represent more than just a team, it’s a family.”

Banners players meet with Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh at the Scrimmage Against Hate skate Sunday (Photo/Courtesy Bill Smillie).

The was evident at the game’s opening face-off. Ian Thomas, a former Banners player and now a tight end for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, dropped the puck.

“This feels good. When I played, we only had one official game against a team in D.C.,” Thomas said. “For us to still be going as a unit, a Baltimore City hockey team, it’s great to see.”

Tammi Lynch agreed. She’s the Metro Maple Leafs hockey mom who designed a sticker with the word “racism” and a red hockey stick slashed across it after she heard about the racial abuse Divyne was experiencing on ice.

She hopes that Sunday’s game will help shine a spotlight on the Banners program and generate more contributions from the hockey community and more assistance from Baltimore City’s powers that be to enhance the program.

“Hopefully we can get something going, to help make change,” she said. “These kids (Banners) should have the opportunities.  They’re the same as the other kids, but they don’t have the same access, which they should.”

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.



Mason Alderson Biddulph and Great Britain win bronze at IIHF championship


, ,

Another International Ice Hockey Federation world championship tournament, another medal for Great Britain’s Mason Alderson Biddulph.

Alderson Biddulph and Team Great Britain won the Bronze Medal at the six-nation 2019 IIHF U20 World Championship Division II Group A tournament recently in Tallin, Estonia. Home team Estonia won the Gold Medal while Lithuania captured the Silver.

Mason Alderson Biddulph shows off the hardware won at the IIFH U20 World Championship Division II Group A tournament in Estonia (Photo/Hendrik Soots)

The 17-year-old forward from London was Great Britain’s seventh-leading scorer in the tournament with 1 goal and 5 assists in five games.

He was a member of the Team GB squad that won gold last year at the IIHF U18 World Championship Division II Group A tourney that was also held in Tallin.

Great Britain’s Mason Alderson Biddulph in action against Lithuania (Photo/Hendrik Soots).

Alderson Biddulph is the son of  Brian Biddulph, a rugged defenseman who played in Great Britain from 1982-83 to 1999-00 for teams in Streatham, Slough, Peterborough and Lee Valley.

Mason Alderson Biddulph representing queen and country at recent IIHF tournament in Estonia (Photot/Hendrik Soots).

The younger Biddulph is playing most of his hockey in North America this season as a member of the Islanders Hockey Club, a U.S. Premier Hockey League team in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He has 2 goals and 3 assists in 18 games with the Isles.

Great Britain’s Bronze Medal-winning U20 national team.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.



Suzuki, Saville, Robertson and Warren crack NHL midterm draft rankings


, , , , , , , , , , , ,

NHL Central Scouting’s 2019 midterm report is out and players of color once again hold prominent spots on the list.

The list is a measuring stick for some of the top amateur talent in North America and Europe ahead of the 2019 National Hockey League Draft June 21-22 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

NHL Central Scouting lists Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts as the 10th-best North American skater eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft (Photo/Terry Wilson/ OHL Images).

Ryan Suzuki of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts is listed as the 10th best North American skater eligible for the draft. The 6-foot center is second on the Colts in scoring with 15 goals and 29 assists in 41 games.

Suzuki, an Ontario native whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan in the 1900s, is the younger brother of center Nick Suzuki, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who plays for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.

Tri-City Storm’s Isaiah Saville is the USHL’s top goaltender and the eighth-ranked netminder on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings.

Isaiah Saville of the Tri-City Storm of the USHL is NHL Central Scouting’s eighth-best North American goaltender. Saville, an Anchorage, Alaska, native, has a record of 16 wins, 4 loses, and one overtime loss in 26 games.

The 6-foot netminder’s 1.76 goals-against average and .934 save percentage tops all USHL goalies.

Alaska native Isaiah Saville will play for the University Nebraska-Omaha next season.

Saville has committed to play next season for the NCAA Division I University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

Nick Robertson, a left wing for the OHL’s Peterborough Petes, is the 30th-best North American skater on Central Scouting’s list. Robertson, who is of Filipino heritage, is the Petes’ second-leading scorer with 17 goals and 16 assists in 31 games.

NHL Central Scouting ranks Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson as the 30th-best North American skater eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft in June. (Photo/Kenneth Andersen).

The 5-foot-9 resident of Northville, Michigan, is the younger brother of left wing Jason Robertson, a Dallas Stars 2017 second-round draft pick who skates for the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

Defenseman Marshall Warren loves the New York Islanders, admires Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, and will play for Boston College next season (Photo/USA Hockey’s NTDP/Rena Laverty).

Marshall Warren, a defenseman for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, is the 39th-best North American skater. The 5-foot-11 Long Island, New York native, has 5 goals and 12 assists in 29 games for the NTDP’s Under-18 team. He tallied 8 goals and 22 assists in 60 games last season.

Defenseman Marshall Warren of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program is NHL Central Scouting’s 39th-best North American skater (Photo/USA Hockey’s NTDP/Rena Laverty).

Warren, a life-long New York Islanders fan who lists Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban as his favorite player, has committed to play next season for the NCAA D-I Boston College Eagles of Hockey East.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.


Dajon Mingo scores shootout-winning goal at 2019 ECHL All-Star Game


, , , , , ,

The 2019 ECHL All-Star Game in Toldedo, Ohio, was a home game of sorts for Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Dajon Mingo.

A crowd of over 7,000 first cheered Mingo Monday, a salute to his playing days at nearby Bowling Green State University and his stint with the ECHL’s Toldeo Walleye.

But the cheers turned to boos after Mingo scored the All-Star Game-winning shootout goal for the Eastern Conference team against Team Fins, a squad of mostly Walleye players.

“I wasn’t really ready for the BGSU cheers. But I guess they still remember me here from the Walleye and at Bowling Green,” Mingo told The Toledo Blade. “When I scored there I didn’t know if they were going to cheer for me or boo me. So I just pointed at the crowd. And I think that got them going…”

Mingo played for Bowling Green from 2012 to 2016. He was bypassed in National Hockey League drafts but was invited to the Washington Capitals development camp in 2015. He made his professional hockey debut with the Walleye in the 2015-16 season.

Jacksonville Icemen defenseman Dajon Mingo, left, Cincinnati Cyclones Assistant Coach Jason Payne, at Norfolk Admirals defenseman Jalen Smereck at the 2019 ECHL All-Star Game in Toledo, Ohio.

The 5-foot-9 Canton, Michigan, native has 5 goals and 10 assists in 21 games for the Icemen. He has 22 goals and 53 assists in 191 ECHL regular season games.

The All-Star Game was played in a 3-on-3 round-robin format that featured Eastern and Western conference teams and two squads of largely Walleye players – the Fins and the Hooks.

Mingo wasn’t the only player or coach of color at the All-Star Game. Norfolk Admirals defenseman Jalen Smereck joined him on the East team.

Smereck, a 6-foot Detroit, Michigan native, tallied a goal and an assist in the All-Star tournament. He has 4 goals and 27 assists for the Admirals this season

Cincinnati Cyclones Assistant Coach Jason Payne served as an assistant coach for the West team.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play


Players of color shine at 2019 CWHL All-Star Game in Toronto


, , , ,


When it comes to covering women’s ice hockey, Erica L. Ayala has it locked down! She traveled to Toronto to cover the 2019 Canadian Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game. Below is the sister’s dispatch from the all-star weekend. Erica will be rocking the mic at the 2019 National Women’s Hockey League All-Star Game in Nashville next month as part of an all-female broadcast crew. You can follow her at

TORONTO – Over 30 of the best and brightest stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League competed at Scotiabank Arena Sunday night at the 2019 All-Star Game. Three players of color – Brigette Lacquette, Sarah Nurse, and Jessica Wong – were among the top CWHL stars.

Wong and Team Gold shutdown Nurse, Lacquette and the rest of Team Purple to secure an 8-4 win to cap All-Star Weekend. Canadian Olympian Brianne Jenner tallied three goals to lead all scorers and became the third player to record a hat trick in a CWHL All-Star Game (Jessica Jones and Jillian Saulnier, 2017).

Markham Thunder goaltender Liz Knox and Calgary Inferno defender Brigette Lacquette conduct ceremonial face-off at the 2019 CWHL All-Star Game in Toronto (Photo/Chris Tanouye).

Ahead of All-Star Weekend, Lacquette was voted captain of Team Purple by fans, receiving 55% of the vote. “To see the percentages was kind of crazy to me,” Lacquette told the media Saturday.

The Dauphin, Manitoba native played college hockey at the University of Minnesota-Duluth before being drafted to the Calgary Inferno. She won a Clarkson Cup with the Inferno in her rookie season and returned again to the CWHL Clarkson Cup Final in the 2016-17 season. However, this is her first All-Star appearance in her four-year professional career. Lacquette ranks second among defenders with 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists).

Calgary Inferno defender Brigette Lacquette.

Lacquette was humbled to serve as captain of Team Purple and represent her country and the Indigenous community at center ice Sunday.

“This past year, I’ve been visiting a lot of Indigenous communities and whatnot, sharing my story. I think that helps with [visibility] and shows them they can really achieve anything they set their mind to,” Lacquette shared over the weekend.

Hamilton, Ontario-native Sarah Nurse joined Lacquette on Team Purple for the weekend. Like Brigette, Nurse enjoys being a role model for young players, especially black players. Nurse played NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Wisconsin and was recently named to the WCHA 20th Anniversary Team.

After Wisconsin, Nurse made her first Canadian Olympic team and earned silver at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games. She was pre-drafted to the Toronto Furies for the 2018-19 season and is second in scoring (10 goals, 9 assists) behind veteran Natalie Spooner.

Toronto Furies forward Sarah Nurse, who played for Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Being a member of the Toronto Furies, Nurse and her teammates were very busy promoting the All-Star Game leading up to Sunday. From photo shoots to clinics, and TV appearances, it was a whirlwind.

One day, Nurse hopes to draw the Black Girl Hockey Club north of the border to a Toronto Furies game.

“I follow them on Twitter,” said Nurse of the women’s hockey fan group. “That would be so cool. There are a lot of Canadian cities that have hockey and I think it would be absolutely incredible. I heard they went out to Washington and that actually got a lot of media coverage. It was so cool to hear about that.”

Jessica Wong was drafted as a starting defender by Team Gold captain Liz Knox.  She represented both Canada and China in Toronto on Sunday. Wong grew up in Nova Scotia and played two seasons with the Calgary Inferno upon graduating from Minnesota-Duluth.

The CWHL Purple and Gold All-Star Teams (Photo/Chris Tanouye).

She was retired when she heard about the CWHL expansion to China last season. She dusted off the skates to accept the challenge of growing the women’s game in a place close to her heart. Wong has a grandmother originally from Shenzhen, the city that is home to the Shenzhen KRS (Kunlin Red Stars) Vanke Rays expansion team. She jumped at the opportunity to come out of retirement and connect to her familial roots. Wong is a top-five scorer for Shenzhen with three goals and 11 assists.

Shenzhen KRS Vanke Red Stars defender Jessica Wong.

As part of the weekend, CWHL All-Stars participated in community events at the Ronald McDonald House, MLSE Launchpad, and the Canadian Blood Donation Clinic. Nurse and Furies teammates Renata Fast and Mellisa Channel participated in a special series sponsored by Adidas Canada. The Furies All-Stars hosted clinics, panel discussions and more for two youth teams – the Ancaster Avalanche and Burlington Barracudas. The youth teams were also hooked up with some Adidas gear and the ultimate behind-the-scenes experience at the All-Star Game.

“Yesterday, the Community Day went really well,” commented CWHL Commissioner and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jayna Hefford Sunday evening. “At the end of the game, seeing the players on the ice, not really wanting to leave the ice, to me that shows that they were having a good time.”

CWHL action resumes as Lacquette and the Calgary Inferno host Wong and the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays tomorrow at 7:45 pm MST. Next week, Nurse and the Furies return to action in China to take on Shenzhen.

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.

Capitals greet black youth hockey player who was racially taunted and the teammates who stood by him


, , , , ,

After enduring hurtful racist taunts at a Maryland youth hockey game recently, Divyne Apollon II was showered with hockey love at Monday’s Washington Capitals-St. Louis Blues game in D.C.

Divyne and his Maryland Metro Maple Leafs teammates had prime seats for the game a 4-1 Blues win – courtesy of Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman John Carlson.

Divyne Apollon II and his Metro Maple Leafs teammates meet Washington Capitals players John Carlson, left, and Devante Smith-Pelly at Capital One Arena (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography)

“It was a good game,” Divyne said with a smile. “It would have been better if they (Capitals) won.”

Divyne, a 13-year-old defenseman, and his team visited the Capitals locker room after the game and met Smith-Pelly, Carlson, forward Alex Ovechkin goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Divyne Apollon II and his the Metro Maple Leafs were thrilled to meet Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin Monday night after the Caps-St. Louis Blues game (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography).

Divyne left the room clutching autographed sticks from Ovechkin, Smith-Pelly and Carlson. Being a good teammate, he gifted a stick given to him by Holtby to Maple Leafs goalie Alex Auchincloss.

“I’m overwhelmed from the support I’m seeing,” Metro Maple Leafs Head Coach Brad Howington said, looking around the locker room. “You didn’t think anything was going to come out this.  All the support that has come out of this has been great. The kids are having a blast.”

Divyne Apollon Sr. talks hockey with Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography).

Asked about how he felt about the team that taunted him – identified by The Washington Post as the Old York Road Raiders – Divyne said he felt sorry for the suburban Philadelphia team.

“I guess they’re pretty angry at home because they didn’t get to meet Ovie because of their actions,” he said. “It was really cool that they (Capitals) reached out to us and invited us to the game and let us meet them at the end.”

The Capitals players heard about the racist abuse that Divyne has endured on the ice – most recently at a tournament in Maryland a few weeks ago – and appreciated the way that his teammates stood up for him.

“I’ve gone through it when I was younger and at this stage as well,” Smith-Pelly told reporters earlier in the day.

Washington Capitals forward Devente Smith-Pelly meets Maryland’s Metro Maple Leafs (Photo?Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography).

He was referring to the February 2018 incident at Chicago’s United Center where some so-called hockey “fans” “racially taunted him as sat in the penalty box. The Chicago Blackhawks organization reacted swiftly to the episode,  banning the culprits from home games.

Smith-Pelly said he was impressed by how Divyne’s teammates handled their business and rallied around their teammate after he was racially abused at the Maryland tournament.

Meet Maryland’s Metro Maple Leafs (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography).

“One thing that kind of stood out is how his teammates had his back as 13-year-old kids fighting for their friends and that brings you back to when stuff happened with me when I was younger and now,” Smith-Pelly added. “Guys on my team always had my back, too. So, I thought it was good to recognize the team as well for standing up for their teammate.”

Carlson told the young players “You guys are the future, and by doing what you did are standing up for each other and standing up for yourselves.”

“That’s what we need to move forward,” he added. “You guys are just kids. You made things right.”

Metro Maple Leafs parents did their part, too. Hockey mom Tammi Lynch designed a sticker with the word “racism” and a red hockey stick slashed across it. She gave copies to players and parents to wear to register their disgust about Divyne’s on ice treatment.

A little button makes a big statement. Members of the Metro Maple Leafs sported anti-racism buttons on their jerseys at Monday’s Capitals-Blues game (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography)

The hockey world has embraced the symbol. The team has received scores of request for copies of the stickers for players to put on their helmets or sticks.

And others folks in the hockey community showed their solidarity with Divyne and the Maple Leafs in different ways.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban sent a video message encouraging Divyne and Ty Cornett, a 13-year-old hockey player of color from Detroit who also has been subjected to on-ice racist taunts, to keep on keeping on and not let the negativity of others deter them.

Divyne’s father, Divyne Apollon Sr., said he was surprised and touched by the outpouring of support from the Capitals and others in hockey.

“This is like Disney World,” the father said of the outpouring of support. “The message is this game is for everybody. You don’t segregate people by their color, period. You’re brought here to play hockey, it’s a team sport. You play it to build character, not to destroy people.”

Divyne Apollon II, 13, was all smiles after he met Devante Smith-Pelly, John Carlson, Alex Ovechkin and other Washington Capitals players (Photo/Courtesy Washington Capitals Photography).

And the younger Divyne had his own message for other kids of color who may be experiencing the racist hockey hate that he’s suffered through on the ice.

“Don’t worry about it,” he told reporters. “If you want to play the game, play it.”

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.


Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly and John Carlson invite racially-abused player and teammates to game


, , , ,

Encouraging words and good deeds.

The story of 13-year-old Divyne Apollon II, a Washington, D.C.-area African-American hockey player who has been subjected to racist taunts on the ice, has touched a nerve in the hockey world.

People have responded. Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman John Carlson stepped up Wednesday, inviting Apollon and his entire Metro Maple Leafs team to attend the Caps’ January 14  home game against the St. Louis Blues.

“Hey Metro Maple Leafs, we heard about the unfortunate incidents that have been taking place with Divyne, but we were so happy to see your team stand up to defend and support each other,” Smith-Pelly said in the video.

The Capitals are giving the Metro Maple Leafs 60 tickets to the game and the Maryland youth hockey team will get a chance to meet Smith-Pelly, Carlson and other Washington players after the contest.

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban delivered encouraging words to Apollon and Ty Cornett  another 13-year-old hockey player of color from Detroit, Michigan, who has also been subjected to racial slurs – via Instagram.

Divyne and his father, Divyne Apollon Sr., shared their experiences of playing hockey while black in an eloquent interview with NPR Wednesday morning.

Divyne Apollon II, left, with Divyne Apollon Sr., and the player’s sisters, Devinity and Deja (Photo/Courtesy of Divyne Apollon Sr.).

Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. And download the Color of Hockey podcast from iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and Google Play.