Washington Capitals roll out welcome for the Black Girl Hockey Club’s first meeting


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All Renee Hess wanted was a little company.

“I had never seen two black women at a hockey game before,” said Hess, a Riverside, California resident who likes to attend Anaheim Ducks games. “So I made it my mission this year to make that happen.”

Mission accomplished, big time.  Hess’ organization, the Black Girl Hockey Club, held its inaugural meetup at the Washington CapitalsBuffalo Sabres game Saturday night at D.C.’s Capital One Arena.

The Black Girl Hockey Club meet members of the Washington Capitals after a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Capitals at Capital One Arena (Photo/ Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images).

More than 40 women of color traveled from across the country to join Hess and witness Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly notch his 100th National Hockey League career point in Washington’s 4-3 shootout win over Buffalo.

The game was exciting but so, too, was the sight of so many women of color and their hockey-playing children quickly bonding by sharing their experiences of being minorities in love with and involved in a predominately white sport.

“The more I started talking to women who were hockey fans, the more I realized that so many hadn’t been to games because they didn’t feel comfortable going to games or they didn’t know anybody who was going to go with them,” said Hess, an associate professor of English at La Sierra University in Riverside.

Black Girl Hockey Club Founder Renee Hess meets Washington Capitals defenseman Madison Bowey after a game between the Buffalo Sabres and Capitals (Photo/ Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images).

“Doing this in D.C., it turned into this big ‘ol thing that snowballed. Once people started hearing about it they were telling their friends – that one black friend who plays hockey,” she added. “We’re not islands, we just didn’t know the others existed. So what I wanted to do is make us more visible.”

Hess identified Washington as the perfect spot for the first meetup because the Capitals have two black players, Smith-Pelly and defenseman Madison Bowey; two black part-owners in Earl Stafford and Sheila Johnson; and the team won the Stanley Cup last season.

Washington also has a strong minority hockey history with the presence of the
Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, North America’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program.

Members of the Black Girl Hockey Club enjoy the game between the Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres in D.C. Saturday night (Photo/Washington Capitals).

The Capitals and the National Hockey League – including Kim Davis, the league’s  executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs -rolled out the welcome mat for BGHC.

Stafford hosted a pre-game reception and spoke to the group in a conference room at Capital One Arena. Shandor Alphonso, the NHL’s only black on-ice official, stopped by with the rest of the officiating crew that worked Saturday’s game  and talked about what life is like wearing referee zebra stripes.

Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly signs Black Girl Hockey Club member Corinne McIntosh-Douglas’ jersey (Photo/Oyin Adedoyin/Morgan State University).

“I had not known of this organization, a gathering of those you typically wouldn’t expect to see at a hockey game,” Stafford told NHL.com. “It just encourages me that there are people out there interested in this great sport and we want to tell their story.”

Even Slap Shot, the Capitals mascot popped in to give high-fives and pose for pictures with the women and their kids. He brought along the mascots for the Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, Washington Nationals baseball team and Washington Wizards basketball team.

Lonnie Bunch III, the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was on hand to witness the historic event and attend his first NHL game.

Lonnie Bunch III, founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, attends his first NHL game and meets the Black Girl Hockey Club rocking a Devante Smith-Pelly jersey (Photo/Jackie Jones).

Friday, the BGHC members were given a personal tour of the popular museum with sports curator Damion Thomas as their guide. The women took a tour of Capitol Hill’s Capitol Visitor’s Center Friday morning, courtesy of Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member of the Congressional Hockey Caucus.

After Saturday’s game, the group met and chatted with Smith-Pelly, Bowey, goaltender Braden Holtby, defenseman Brooks Orpik, and center Nic Dowd.

“This is great, Smith-Pelly said. “I didn’t think it would be possible to have a room full of full of black hockey fans, black women hockey fans. It’s awesome. To have the people in this room behind me, it’s pretty cool.”

“That’s a good organization that they started and hopefully it gets bigger and they continue to try to change the game,” Smith-Pelly added.

Bowey agreed.

“This shows the diversity that’s come a long way,” he said. “Willie O’Ree broke the barrier for us, and I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done. It’s awesome to see this and it makes me very proud that I can be one player of color to make it in the NHL.”

Black Girl Hockey Club meet member Flo Clemmons strikes a pose with Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (Photo/Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images).

For Florence Clemmons, who traveled from Rochester, New York, meeting the Capitals players, Stafford and Alphonso was great, but bonding with such a large group of  black female hockey fans was something truly special.

“I think it’s important to show folks what we’re really all about,” said Clemmons,  who is program director for the Genesee Valley Youth Hockey Club. “We are a culture of folks that really likes the sport, knows about the sport, and really wants to see the sport grow.”

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik signs autographs for some of the kids who attended the Black Girls Hockey Club meetup at the Capitals-Buffalo Sabres game in D.C. Saturday (Photo/Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images).

Kelsey Koelzer, a defenseman for the Metropolitan Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League, said it was “a no brainer” for her and her mother, Kristine, to attend the meetup.

“Being a current black female hockey player and getting to meet up with fellow black hockey fans in general, it was something I knew I had to be a part of,” Koelzer said.  “I was surprised about the numbers, but really not surprised. I think the sport is growing a lot and catching on. Getting to do this in this setting, at an NHL game, is really, really special.”

Hess and her fellow BGHC members promise that Saturday’s meetup won’t be a one-off. BGHC, along with the Color of Hockey, are planning a February 10 gather in Tennessee for the Nashville Predators-St. Louis Blues match followed by the NWHL All-Star Game.  

“I know our numbers are going to grow, this being the first time,” Clemmons said. “I know once this becomes national, there’s no stopping us.”

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

Caleb Jones makes his NHL debut, joins big brother Seth in the league


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Now both Jones boys are in the show.

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones.

Defenseman Caleb Jones, the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets All-
Star defenseman Seth Jones, made his National Hockey League regular season debut Friday night with the Edmonton Oilers against the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Oilers called Jones up from the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s American Hockey League affiliate. He logged  11:59 minutes of ice time in the Oilers’ 4-1 win.

“When I got the call, I was shocked. It’s an unbelievable feeling, it’s something you work for your whole life,” Jones told reporters before the game. “I thought I was playing well down there and they told me I deserved it. Maybe it was a little sooner than I expected, but you never really expect something like this. I feel ready to play at this level and I am ready to go.”

The Oilers selected Jones, 21, in the fourth round with the 117th overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft. He’s played the last two season in Barkersfield, California. He’s tallied 2 goals and 10 assists in 21 games for the Condors.

Seth Jones, defense, Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I talked to people both at the American League level and the major junior level and I got a good feel,” Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said of Jones. “He’s a that’s going to be a player here for a little while and we might as well get his career started, so we want to start it tonight.”

Big Brother Seth, 24, wasn’t able to attend Caleb’s game in Edmonton. The Blue Jackets are in the throes of a home stand and play the Anaheim Ducks Saturday.

Dad Popeye Jones, a former NBA star, was busy, too. He’s an assistant coach for the Indiana Pacers who defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 113-101 in Philly Friday night.

The Edmonton Sun reported that Caleb’s mother and grandmother were in Edmonton to watch his debut.

“My mom was the first person I called,” Caleb told reporters. “She didn’t believe me at first and told me that I better not be lying to her. She was really happy for me and she kept calling me all night wanting to know what was going in and where I was in my travel.”

Friday’s match between the Oilers and Flyers featured four players of color: Jones, defenseman Darnell Nurse and left wing Juhjar Khaira for Edmonton and right wing Wayne Simmonds for the Flyers.

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 time is right for more people of color to get the call from U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame


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American-born hockey excellence will be celebrated in Nashville, Tennessee, when five deserving individuals are inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Wednesday night.

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile, former three-time Winter Olympian Natalie Darwitz, legendary former University of Michigan hockey Head Coach Gordon “Red” Berenson, retired National Hockey League referee Paul Stewart and the late Leland “Hago” Harrington will be honored by the U.S. Hall.

The new inductees will join 173 individuals and four hockey teams enshrined in the U.S. Hall, located in Eveleth, Minnesota, about 190 miles from Minneapolis.

Since opening its doors in 1973, the Hall has inducted two people of minority heritage – Henry Boucha and Bill Guerin.

Henry Boucha was a Minnesota high school hockey star, played in the 1972 Winter Olympics and had a promising pro career until he suffered a serious injury (Photo/Portnoy/Hockey Hall of Fame).

Boucha, a Native American (Ojibwe), was a standout high school hockey player in Minnesota and a member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that won the Silver Medal at the Sapporo, Japan, games.

The Detroit Red Wings chose Boucha in the second round of the 1971 NHL Draft. The gifted center seemed destined for hockey stardom post-Olympics but a cracked bone around his eye – the result of a vicious 1975 altercation with Boston Bruins forward Dave Forbes – curtailed his career.

Boucha appeared in 247 NHL games for the Red Wings, Minnesota North Stars, Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies and tallied 53 goals and 49 assists. He played 36 games for the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the old World Hockey Association, scoring 15 goals and 20 assists.

Guerin, who is of Nicaraguan and Irish descent, was a high-scoring forward for seven NHL teams.

He won the Stanley Cup in 1994-95 with the New Jersey Devils and again in 2008-09 with the Pittsburgh PenguinsHe was a Penguins assistant general manager when the team won back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.

Guerin was a member of the U.S. men’s hockey team that won silver at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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He also played on the U.S. men’s squad at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, the first Winter Games where NHL players competed.

During his NHL career, Guerin tallied 429 goals and 427 assists in 1,263 regular season games and 39 goals and 35 assists in 140 Stanley Cup Playoffs contests.

With more and more people of color getting involved in hockey at all levels and all aspects of the game, the time seems right to give Boucha and Guerin a little more company in the U.S. Hall.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth JonesToronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie (who is Henry Boucha’s second cousin) should all merit U.S. Hall induction consideration if their careers continue on their current paths.

As for the here and now, who fulfills the Hall’s induction criteria that nominees must exhibit extraordinary contributions to hockey in the United States? Some suggestions:

NEAL HENDERSON, head coach/founder of Washington, D.C.’s Fort Dupont Hockey Club. Henderson was preaching that “Hockey is for Everyone” long before tit became the NHL’s mantra.

He’s the patriarch of North America’s oldest minority-oriented youth hockey program – 43 years and counting – and is responsible for building a generation of black hockey players and fans in the Washington, D.C., region and beyond.

Fort Dupont Hockey Club coach and founder Neal Henderson prepares to drop a puck at a Washington Capitals game (Photo/Courtesy Robert Primus).

Henderson, 82, has also launched a generation of kids, many of them disadvantaged, on  paths toward success by using hockey to teach the value of teamwork, responsibility, punctuality, good manners, and the necessity of pursuing an education.

He’s done so despite undergoing joint surgeries, skating in an ancient ice rink in one of Washington’s tougher neighborhoods, and often having only just enough money to pay the non-profit program’s bills.

“There are few coaches as remarkable and deserving as Neal Henderson, who I believe is an obvious choice for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame,” said U.S. House Rep. Mike Quigley, co-chair of the Congressional Hockey Caucus on Capitol Hill. “Neal has dedicated himself to the principle that ‘Hockey is for Everyone,’ having spent decades fostering community and ensuring that every child in D.C. – regardless of race, zip code, socioeconomic status – has the opportunity to fall in love with the game.”

Henderson’s Fort Dupont program has produced success stories like Lt. Col Ralph Featherstone, a U.S. Marine aviator who became the first black captain of the United States Naval Academy’s hockey team.

Coach Neal Henderson – last row, second from the left – has been guiding the Fort Dupont Hockey Club since he founded the team 43 years ago (Photo/AJ Messier/Hogtown Studios).

Duante Abercrombie, another Henderson pupil, is now the head coach of the Washington Little Capitals 16U National Team, a program with a track record of developing players who go on to NCAA hockey programs and junior leagues like the USHL.

Fort Dupont became the model for programs like the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation and similar organizations under the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” umbrella.

It’s not for nothing that after Capitals won the Stanley Cup in June, team Owner Ted Leonsis and superstar forward Alex Ovechkin took it to the Fort Dupont Ice Arena to share it with Henderson’s players.

Henderson was a finalist for the NHL’s inaugural Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. He received the Bridgestone Mark Messier Youth Leadership Award in 2010.

Scott Gomez won two Stanley Cups and the Calder Trophy in a 16-year NHL career.

SCOTT GOMEZ, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who also won the NHL’s 1999-2000 Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.

The son of a Mexican-American father and Colombian mother, Gomez is regarded as perhaps the best hockey player to come out of Anchorage, Alaska.

A center, Gomez played for seven teams over his 16-year NHL career but he’ll forever be associated with the New Jersey Devils, the team he collected Cups with in 1999-2000 and 2002-2003.

He had his best season in New Jersey in 2005-06 when he notched 33 goals and 51 assists in 82 regular season games and 5 goals and 4 assists in nine playoff games.

In all, he tallied 181 goals and 575 assists in 1079 NHL regular season contests and 29 goals and 72 assists in 149 playoff games.

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Gomez had a goal and 4 assists in six games for the U.S. at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. He also skated for the U.S. at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship tournaments in 1997-98 and 1998-99 and the 2004 World Cup.

His international stat sheet: 6 goals, 14 assists in 24 games.

Gomez, currently an assistant coach for the New York Islanders, embraced his heritage throughout his career and his play inspired other Hispanics to watch and take up hockey.

“If a Hispanic player like Scott Gomez can overcome his many life obstacles from afar in Alaska to play professional hockey in the NHL, the Hispanic player from New Jersey, Miami, New York can propose to achieve the same,” said Nelson Negron, a  Mahwah, New Jersey, resident whose son, Peter Negron is a goaltender for NCAA Division III Hamilton College. “And Scott represented himself, family, teammates and Hispanics well by being a consummate and exemplary professional and human being.”

Gomez has also represented his home state. He’s contributed time and money to help keep youth hockey alive in Alaska, particularly girls’ high school hockey, through his Scotty Gomez Foundation.

Forward Julie Chu competed in four Winter Olympics for the United States (Photo/Nancie Battaglia)

JULIE CHU, is a four-time Winter Olympian and one of the most-decorated players in U.S. women’s hockey history.

She has more hardware than Home Depot – Olympic Silver Medals from Sochi in 2014, Vancouver in 2010,  Salt Lake City in 2002 and a Bronze Medal from Turin in 2006.

Chu was the U.S. flag-bearer at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, joining Hockey Hall of Fame and U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Cammi Granato as the only women’s hockey players to receive the honor.

She’s the first person of color to carry the U.S. at a Winter Olympics closing ceremony.

Chu, who was a forward, owns a lot of gold in the form of IIHF Women’s World Championship medals. She earned them with U.S. women’s teams that competed in 2005 in Sweden, 2008 in China, 2009 in Finland, 2011 in Switzerland and 2013 in Ottawa.

When Chu’s U.S. teams didn’t win gold medals at IIHF tournaments, they earned silver in 2001 in Minnesota, 2002 in Halifax, 2007 in Winnipeg,  and 2012 in Vermont.

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Chu tallied 4 goals and 20 assists in 20 Winter Olympics matches. She notched 13 goals and 34 assists in 44 IIHF world championship contests.

A four-time All-American at Harvard University, she is the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer in women’s hockey with 284 points – 88 goals and 196 assists in 129 games – over four seasons.

She was the recipient of the 2007 Patty Kazmaier Award – the women’s hockey equivalent of the Hobey Baker Award – and the 2007 Bob Allen Women’s Player of the Year by USA Hockey.

Chu won three Canadian Women’s Hockey League championships in 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2016-17. She’s now the head coach of Concordia University’s women’s hockey team in Montreal.

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

Dad of Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Daniel Walcott scores on ‘Dragon’s Den’


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Like any good parent, all David Walcott wanted to do was help his child.

After hard hockey games or practices, son Daniel Walcott would regularly complain about sore or heavy legs. Being a hockey dad, David gave his son coconut water – a super-hydrating drink that many athletes swear by to stave off cramps and reduce lactic acid buildup in their bodies.

Prodr8 drink creator David Walcott.

Only two problems: Daniel hated the coconut taste and the drink disagreed with his stomach.

So David embarked on a years-long mission to make the perfect coconut water sports drink to satisfy Daniel, a defensive prospect in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

That mission led the Walcotts last month to CBC’s “Dragon’s Den,” where David successfully pitched two of the Canadian show’s stars to invest $150,000 in Prodr8, the flavored coconut water sports drink that he developed for Daniel.

“This was my draft, in a way,” David Walcott said of his appearance on Canada’s version of “Shark Tank.” “Daniel got drafted, now I got drafted. We’re kind of a bunch of guys that have these huge ambitions and we’re kind of in the beginning of all these dreams. It’s nice when each one of us gets validation to go on to the next level.”

David Walcott, left, Syracuse Crunch defenseman Daniel Walcott with brothers Karl and Chad Walcott make their product pitch on CBC’s “Dragon’s Den” (Photo/CBC).

David is in Calgary as a member of District Ventures, one of Canada’s top accelerator programs for packaged goods. District Ventures Accelerator is part of a support system that delivers capital, mentoring and marketing to innovative CPG companies.

Founded by “Dragon’s Den” cast member Arlene Dickinson, District Ventures Accelerator, District Ventures Capital, and Venture Communications helps turn successful companies into globally respected brands.

David intends to use the “Dragon’s Den” money and the Calgary training to re-brand Prodr8, shifting its manufacturing operations from the U.S. to Canada and relaunching the product in March.

“This is going to be my retirement, my swan song, so I’m going to put everything I got into this, not just for the fact that I loved it because it was something I did because of my passion for my son,” David said. “I recognized that there was a possibility or opportunity in potentially creating something for Daniel and filling a void at the same time because of the entrepreneur craziness in my head.”

The cast of CBC’s “Dragon’s Den.” Left to right, Jim Treliving, Michele Romanow, Vicenzo Guzzo, Arlene Dickinson, Lane Merrifield, and Manjit Minhas (Photo/CBC).

Hockey people aren’t strangers to “Dragon’s Den.” Retired National Hockey League tough guy Donald Brashear appeared on the show in 2016 and struck a $500,000 deal for Brash87, a low-cost hockey stick company he created.

The nod from the two Dragons last month toward David Walcott’s fledgling business couldn’t have come at a better time for the Quebec native.

A divorced father with three sons, David struggled to make ends meet while guiding Daniel through the pricey world of competitive youth hockey.

He’s worked as an Uber driver in Chicago and Tampa over the years to help pay the bills. When Daniel attended the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia, David slept in his car to save money.

The father’s sacrifices aren’t lost on the son.

Daniel Walcott (Photo/Syracuse Crunch).

“I know it’s been a long journey,” said Daniel, 24. “I lived with my dad in Chicago when I played there. We moved to an area where I could play for a good high school hockey team where it wasn’t the cheapest area to live in. We made it work. I owe him a lot.”

The New York Rangers selected Daniel in the fifth round with the 140th overall  pick of the 2014 draft from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Before that, he played club hockey at small Lindwood University near St. Louis.

The Rangers traded the 5-foot-11, 174-pound defenseman to the Lightning in 2015 in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick that year. Daniel has played for the Syracuse Crunch, the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, since the 2015-16 season.

A pre-season shoulder injury has kept Daniel off the ice so far in 2018-19. He hopes to return to the Crunch line up in February or March.

A shoulder injury has kept Syracuse Crunch defenseman Daniel Walcott out of action so far this season (Photo/Syracuse Crunch).

Daniel was on the ice last season when the Crunch went on a lengthy winning streak, a run that he half-jokingly says was fueled by the cases of Prodr8 his dad sent to the team.

“We started the season kind of slow, like we did this year, we got our shipment of Prodr8 later in the season, and as soon as we got it we were on an 11-game winning streak,” Daniel said. “It was the boost we needed.”

It certainly gave David Walcott a boost.

“They went on a winning streak, and I took full credit for it!” he said.

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

‘Indian Horse’ Canadian hockey movie finally makes it to the U.S. big screen


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“Nobody wants to see an Indian movie.”

That was the general response director Stephen Campanelli and the makers of “Indian Horse” initially received from the Canadian and Hollywood movie industry when they pitched the idea of bringing the fictional story of a First Nations boy – a survivor of Canada’s notorious Catholic residential schools – and his difficult path to adulthood and hockey fame to the big screen.

“‘Does the general public really want to see this?’ That was the attitude. ‘Why bring up the bad past,’ which really wasn’t that long ago.” Campanelli told me recently. “But it’s a great story that people connect with. And if you don’t connect with the part about the racism and horrible things that happened to the indigenous people, you connect with the hockey – you see the resilience and the power of a sport like hockey to change people’s lives.”

AJ Kapasheist is one of three actors who portrays Saul Indian Horse, a hockey-playing survivor of Canada’s residential schools, at various stages in his life (Photo/Elevation Pictures).

American audiences now have the chance to see “Indian Horse” as the Canadian-made film executive produced by Academy Award-winning actor/director Clint Eastwood has finally crossed the border.

It took five years before the film was finally made and released in Canada in April. And it took months to get distribution interest in the United States. But for a product that folks allegedly wouldn’t see, “Indian Horse” has done alright, collecting 16 film awards.

“We work in an industry where indigenous stories and characters on the screen do not reach mainstream audiences,” said  Christine Haebler, one of the film’s producers. “An all-Native or indigenous acted movie is not what distributors or theaters are used to seeing and selling on their screens even in 2018.”

But the timing seems right for “Indian Horse” – for positive and negative reasons.

The film comes at a time when a growing number Native American/First Nations players are achieving success at all levels of hockey – from Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price giving a nod to his heritage in accepting the Vezina Trophy in 2015 to the Ditidaht First Nation’s Maryna Macdonald playing defense for Harvard University this season.

It also comes at a time when indigenous hockey players are still experiencing a disturbing number of racist incidents and continue to endure hateful taunts about their heritage.

Last Friday, a pee wee hockey game near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, ended before the third period after players and parents allegedly hurled racially and culturally insensitive remarks toward the opposing team, the Waywayseecappo Wolverines.

“We heard many parents saying ‘Those boys are just going to get drunk, maybe they’re drunk now. They’re probably hung over…,”  Tanis Brandon, the mother of a Wolverines player and the team’s assistant manager, told CBC. “I felt like crying…As an adult, I didn’t even know how to handle it if someone called me a dirty Indian or a savage.”

In May, members of the First Nation Elite Bantam AAA team endured racist slurs and taunts at the Coupe Challenge Quebec in Quebec City, Canada.

“Indian Horse,” based on the late author Richard Wagamese’s best-selling novel of the same name, will be screened in Tempe, Arizona, on Friday and will be shown in other theaters nationwide later this month.

Actor Forrest Goodluck plays a young Saul Indian Horse, who hones his hockey skill at a Canadian residential school (Photo/Elevation Pictures).

It was shown at the Yakama Nation Heritage Theater in Toppenish, Washington, and at the 23rd annual Red Nation International Film Festival in Los Angeles last month.

The movie doesn’t pull punches. Through the eyes of protagonist Saul Indian Horse, the film gives an unvarnished portrayal of life for Indigenous youth who were plucked from their families and shipped to residential schools, which were established under the premise of helping the children assimilate to white Canadian culture.

Between the 1880s and 1996, more than 150,000 indigenous children attended  residential schools. Many of them reported being sexually, physically and psychologically abused by priests, nuns, and other teachers.

The Canadian government formally apologized for the schools in 2008 and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established out of a negotiated settlement that included monetary compensation for survivors.

Fred Sasakamoose, a residential school survivor, became the NHL’s first indigenous player with treaty status when he skated for the Chicago Black Hawks in 1953-54(Photo/Courtesy Hockey Hall of Fame) and Getty Embed.

Fred Sasakamoose cried as he watched “Indian Horse” at a screening in April. Sasakamoose, who is Ahtahkakoop Cree, became the first indigenous player with treaty status to play in the National Hockey League, accomplishing the feat when he skated for the Chicago Black Hawks against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 27, 1954.

Like Saul Indian Horse, Sasakamoose found an escape from the horrors of the residential schools in hockey.

Harvard University defenseman Maryna Macdonald.

“It hit back the pain,” Sasakamoose said of the film. “The impact of that movie – it was my life. It is a good movie, but it is also painful.”

While there are some similarities between Sasakamoose and the movie’s lead character, Haebler notes that “Saul Indian Horse took a divergent path of Fred Sasakamoose’s life.”

“Without spoiling the movie, Saul Indian Horses experience differs greatly,” said said.

Harvard’s Macdonald, whose grandmother attended a residential school, said “Indian Horse” is “a great movie that, obviously touches on a heavy topic.”

“The depiction they have in the movie is pretty powerful,” she told me. “It kind of gives light for a lot of people who might not understand a lot about residential schools.”

And it gives light to how hard it was for players like Sasakamoose to make their way in a mostly-white hockey world. Sasakamoose’s NHL career spanned only 11 games in the 1953-54 season in which the talented center failed to score.

Harvard University defenseman Maryna Macdonald in action (Photo/Gil Talbot).

But his brief presence blazed the trail for other indigenous players like Reggie Leach, the high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers right wing who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best Stanley Cup Playoffs performer in 1976, and center Bryan Trottier, a seven-time Stanley Cup champion on three different teams and the NHL’s Most Valuable Player in 1979.

Now, a new generation of Native American/First Nations players, like Macdonald, are at the dawn of their careers, helping to further break down barriers and debunk myths.

Brandon Montour, patrols the blue line for the Anaheim Ducks; Edmonton Oilers defensive prospect Ethan Bear skates for the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League; and Devin Buffalo has gone from being a standout netminder at Ivy League Dartmouth College to a rookie for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

Greenville Swamp Rabbits goaltender Devin Buffalo hopes his play will help shatter stereotypes against Native American/First Nations hockey players (Photo/Greenville Swamp Rabbits).

Buffalo told CBC in October that his dream “to show people where a Native hockey player could go and overcome these obstacles and stereotypes.”

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

Willie O’Ree goes from Hockey Hall of Fame plaque to San Diego bobblehead


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What do you do for a man who’s just been immortalized on a Hockey Hall of Fame plaque? Make a bobblehead in his image.

That’s what the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League did for Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player.

San Diego honored O’Ree, who played seven seasons for Gulls teams that skated in the defunct Western Hockey League and Pacific Hockey League, at a home game Friday night after he was enshrined at the Hall Monday evening.

The Gulls, an Anaheim Ducks farm team, wore O’Ree-era throwback jerseys Friday in their game against the Bakersfield Condors, an Edmonton Oilers affiliate.

O’Ree became the NHL’s first black player on January 18, 1958 when he skated for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the old Montreal Forum.

He appeared in 45 games over two NHL seasons,  a remarkable feat considering that he’s blind in his right eye – the result of being struck by a puck.

But the injury didn’t prevent him from having a long and productive minor league career, most of which was played in San Diego.

“I was a San Diego Gull when I came here in 1967 and I still am,” O’Ree told the bobblehead-receiving fans inside the Valley  View Casino Center Friday.”It is the finest group of fans I ever played in front of and I am honored to be part of this tonight.”

O’Ree, who makes his home in San Diego, finished his playing career in 1978-79 as the old WHL’s 16th all-time leading scorer with 328 goals and 311 assists in 785 games.

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O’Ree entered the Hall as a Builder, a category reserved for those who have contributed to the foundation of the game.

His induction into the Hall is a a nod to his work as the NHL’s diversity ambassador and its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

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


Ohio’s Chayla Edwards commits to play hockey for the University of Wisconsin

Congratulations to Chayla Edwards, who signed a letter of intent to play hockey for the University of Wisconsin.

Chayla Edwards will play for U of Wisconsin in 2019-2020.

Edwards, a 17-year-old, defenseman and high school senior from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, will debut with the NCAA Division I Badgers in the 2019-2020 season.

She currently skates for Pittsburgh’s Shady Side Academy and the Pittsburgh Penguins 19U Girls Elite Team.

“So honored and excited to officially become a Badger!!!,” Edwards tweeted.

Edwards tallied 4 goals and 2 assists for Shady Side in 2017-18 and helped power the team to Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic titles in 2016 and 2017.

Edwards earned All-WIHLMA honors over the last three seasons. She was named to USA Today’s 2017-18 American Family Insurance All-USA Preseason Girls Hockey Team. She also participated in the 2017 USA Hockey Girls U18 Select Player Development Camp.

Defenseman Chayla Edwards will be patrolling the blue line for the University of Wisconsin next season (Photo/Courtesy Robert Edwards).

“It came down to (Associate Head Coach) Dan Koch and (Head Coach) Mark Johnson,” Robert Edwards, Chayla’s father, said of his daughter’s university choice. “The fact that they are one of the top teams doesn’t hurt and their hockey culture, from my understanding,  is top notch. We’re very comfortable with the coaching and very comfortable with Wisconsin.”

Black hockey players have gravitated to the University of Wisconsin over the last few seasons.

Shady Side Academy senior Chayla Edwards becomes the latest hockey player of color to commit to the University of Wisconsin (Photo/Courtesy Robert Edwards).

Defenseman K’Andre Miller, a 2018 New York Rangers first-round draft pick, is  playing his freshman season in Madison, Wisconsin for men’s hockey Head Coach Tony Granato.

Forward Sarah Nurse, a 2018 Canadian Winter Olympian, played four seasons at Wisconsin. She finished her NCAA career with 76 goals and 61 assists in 150 regular season games.

Nurse now plays for the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. She has a goal and an assist in seven games so far this season. The goal was a game-winner.

“My daughters have been influenced by her and are encouraged by her success,” Robert Edwards said.

JD Greenway,  a 2016 Toronto Maple Leafs third-round draft pick and the younger brother of 2018 U.S. Winter Olympian and Minnesota Wild forward prospect Jordan Greenway, played two seasons at Wisconsin before joining the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in 2018-19.

Hockey is a huge part of the Edwards family. Oldest sister Britney doesn’t play, but encourages her siblings. Chayla’s younger sister, Laila Edwards, is a forward for Selects Academy at Bishop Kearney in Rochester, New York. Older brother, Bobby, plays club hockey at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and younger brother, Colson, plays for the Cleveland Jr. Jacks.

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

Willie O’Ree, inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame, says his diversity ‘work is not done’


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TORONTO – Displaying the humility and determination that’s typified his life and career, Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player, was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame Monday night.

In a moving speech, the 83-year-old pioneer lauded hockey for embracing diversity, but added that there’s still more to do to make the sport more inclusive.

And he expects to be at the forefront of the effort.

“Tonight, I am here to tell you that we are not done because the work is not done,”  O’Ree told the packed crowd at the induction ceremony inside the Hall in Toronto. “We have barriers to break and knock down, and opportunities to give.”

He urged the audience to “return to your communities, take a look around.”

“Find a young boy or girl who needs the opportunity to play hockey and give it go them,” he added. “You never know, they may make history.”

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O’Ree got that chance on January 18, 1958 when the Boston Bruins called him up for a game against the Montreal Canadiens in the old Montreal Forum.

“All I wanted was to be a hockey player,” he said in his induction speech. “All I needed was the opportunity. To be here tonight is simply overwhelming.”

With no 24-hour news cycle of social media, the feat of him becoming the NHL’s first black player was largely confined to the local press. Even O’Ree said he didn’t know he made history until he read about it in the morning paper.

O’Ree’s NHL career was brief, 45 games over two seasons. The fact that he played that many games in the big leagues at all was amazing considering he was blind in his right eye, the result of a being struck with the puck.

But O’Ree’s Hall entry isn’t  about his player’s stats. The Hall of Fame’s selection committee admitted him as a Builder, a category reserved for for coaches, general managers, noted broadcasters and others who are regarded as pillars of the game.

O’Ree has worked tirelessly as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador since 1996, traveling across the United States and Canada to visit youth hockey programs affiliated with the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

He’s also a revered figure to many of the NHL’s players, who seek him out for guidance and advice. O’Ree has been a mentor, role model, and advocate in growing hockey in communities previously overlooked by the sport.

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“He’s what a builder is right out of the gate – you couldn’t make a better description of a builder,” said Grant Fuhr, the Edmonton Oilers goaltending great who became the Hall’s first black inductee in 2003. “When you see another person of color playing it gives you that thought that you can possibly play. It opens up a big door.”

O’Ree joins Fuhr and Angela James, a Canadian women’s hockey star who was regarded as the female Wayne Gretzky in her heyday, as the only black members of the Hall of Fame.

O’Ree told the Hall of Fame audience that he stood on the shoulders of others, notably the late Herb Carnegie and Manny McIntyre.

Carnegie, his brother, Ossie, and McIntyre, combined to form the “Black Aces,” the first all-black professional hockey line.

Herb Carnegie played on the semi-pro Quebec Aces with forward Jean Beliveau, who went on to become a  Canadiens legend. Beliveau regarded Carnegie as one of the best players he ever skated with.

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“As a teen, I looked up to Herb Carnegie and Manny McIntyre,” O’Ree said Monday. “They paved the way for me. They just never got the opportunity I did.”

O’Ree was enshrined Monday with New Jersey Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur,  former Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers sniper Martin St. Louis, Russian hockey star Alexander Yakushev, Canadian women’s hockey star  and Canadian Women’s Hockey League Commissioner Jayna Hefford and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

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


Hockey Hall of Famers laud the inductions of Willie O’Ree, Jayna Hefford


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TORONTO – Angela James is excited to have company.

James, the first black woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, will be joined in Toronto’s hockey shrine Monday night by Willie O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player, and Jayna Hefford, the commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and, like James, a former high-scoring player for Canada’s national teams.


Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James, center. is thrilled to have Willie O’Ree and Jayna Hefford join her.

Hefford becomes the sixth woman to enter the Hall, further answering the question James asked in her 2010 induction speech: “Who is next?”

“I think we’re finally almost up to a full table,” James said Sunday after skating in the Hall of Fame induction weekend’s Legends Game. “After the inductions and stuff, we can sit around and reminisce and talk about things just like the guys can. The more women there are, the better memories and times we can share together.”

James and Hefford will share that stable with former Canadian Olympic team stars Danielle Goyette and Geraldine Heaney and former U.S. Olympians Cammi Granato and Angela Ruggiero.

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James, who was regarded as Canada’s female Wayne Gretzky during her heyday, is equally proud about O’Ree getting into the Hall, becoming its third black inductee, joining herself and former Edmonton Oilers goaltending great Grant Fuhr.

“All three of my kids wrote projects about Willie and I know my oldest son sent a tremendous letter in support of inducting Willie and I know for sure it went to the (Hockey Hall of Fame selection) panel,” James said. “It was a long time coming. He was a trailblazer back then and he’s a trailblazer now.”

O’Ree continues to make hockey history with his induction as the first person of color to enter the Hall as a Builder, a category reserved for coaches, general managers, broadcasters and others who are regarded as pillars of the game.

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O’Ree is credited with growing the game and creating a new generation of players and fans through his work as the NHL’s diversity ambassador and the “Hockey is for Everyone” program.

ORee played in 44 NHL games following his January 18, 1958 debut with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal. Despite the brevity of his NHL career – he had a lengthy and prolific minor league career that lasted  until 1978-79 – he’s earned the respect of NHL players.

“He’s what a builder is right out of the gate – you couldn’t make a better description of a builder,” said Fuhr, who became the Hall’s first black inductee in 2003. “When you see another person of color playing it gives you that thought that you can possibly play. It opens up a big door.”,.

O’Ree and Hefford enter the Hall Monday with New Jersey Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur,  former Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers sniper Martin St. Louis, Russian hockey star Alexander Yakushev, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. 

The 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony will broadcast live on TSN2 in Canada and NHL Network in the United States.

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


Willie O’Ree receives his Hockey Hall of Fame ring and long-deserved honor


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TORONTOWillie O’Ree got his Hockey Hall of Fame ring Friday and Pamela Houston got a thrill watching him get it.

“It’s almost like an Obama moment,” Houston, a member of the Ontario Black History Society said. “First black president, first black hockey player, finally getting recognition.”

O’Ree, the National Hockey League’s first black player, will be formally inducted into the Hall Monday as a member of the 2018 class.

Willie O’Ree, right, shows off his Hockey Hall of Fame ring after receiving it from Hall Chairman Lanny McDonald (Photo/Courtesy Jeffrey Auger).

He’ll join New Jersey Devils goaltending legend Martin Brodeur,  former Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers sniper Martin St. Louis, Russian hockey star Alexander Yakushev, Canadian women’s hockey star  and Canadian Women’s Hockey League Commissioner Jayna Hefford and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman as the Hall’s newest occupants.

The induction ceremony will broadcast live on TSN2 in Canada and NHL Network in the United States.

“This is about the highest award that I’d ever get as far as playing hockey and my work with the ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ program,” O’Ree, 83, said at Friday’s ring presentation ceremony. “I’m blessed.”

Each member of the Hall’s Class of 2018 received generous applause as they received their rings Monday. The clapping was a little louder when O’Ree got his.

“Long overdue,” McDonald told me afterward.

O’Ree has been the league’s diversity ambassador since 1996, traveling across the United States and Canada to visit youth hockey programs affiliated with the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

O’Ree made history on Jan. 18, 1958, when he skated for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in the old Montreal Forum.

The right wing from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, only played 45 NHL games over two seasons with the Bruins, tallying 4 goals and 10 assists.

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He had a long and productive minor league career, finishing as the 16th all-time leading scorer in the old Western Hockey League with 328 goals and 311 assists in 785 games, despite being blind in his right eye.

He’ll become the third black person enshrined in the Hall, joining Edmonton Oilers goaltending great Grant Fuhr and Angela James, a Canadian women’s hockey superstar who was regarded as a female Wayne Gretzky.

O’Ree will continue his trailblazing ways by becoming the first person of color to be inducted in the Hall as a Builder, a category reserved for those who have contributed to the foundation of the game.

His plaque will keep company with revered names like Herb Brooks, the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic men’s team hockey coach, “Hockey Night in Canada” broadcaster Foster Hewitt, Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch,  and Conn Smythe, who built the Toronto Maple Leafs into five-time Stanley Cup champions between 1945 and 1951.

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“Those are some pretty big names, and Willie richly deserves to be there,” McDonald said. “You can build in different ways. You can be an owner who’s a phenomenal philanthropist, a great visionary for his hockey team. Or you can be Willie, who has lived a life of setting an example, and such a great example, for so many young people and so many of the older generation to say ‘Wow, this guy is richly deserving of this honor.'”

Avry Lewis-McDougal, host of “Avry’s Sports Show” podcast and YouTube channel, agreed. Like Ryrerson’s Cummings, he was all smiles Friday as he watched O’Ree receive his Hall of Fame ring.

“It finally means the game is truly growing, it means we’re finally seeing true diversity in the fact we have Willie O’Ree in it (Hall of Fame), women in it,” McDougal said. “It’s incredible because we’ve waited so many years for Willie O’Ree to be in the Hall of Fame – for decades. And the fact that people finally said ‘You know what, this is wrong, Willie needs to be in here’ and the fact that the push finally worked, it’s incredible. It’s great to see.”

Kia Cummings, a 21-year-old Ryerson University sports media senior from Toronto, who interviewed O’Ree Friday as part of a documentary project said she wouldn’t be interested in hockey if it weren’t for him.

“As a Canadian, as a woman of color, as someone who is passionate about  hockey, I wanted to take the opportunity to honor him,” she said. “It’s meeting the person who made your dreams a possibility…I have a passion for hockey that goes so much further. If I want to work within a hockey organization I can do that because Willie did it before me.”

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