Maryland hockey team seeks to ‘stick it’ to racism after black player is taunted at game

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They say that Hockey is for Everyone. Unfortunately, some folks still haven’t gotten the memo.

Some players who faced 13-year-old Divyne Apollon II must have been among that group.

Otherwise they wouldn’t have taunted the defenseman for the Metro Maple Leafs, an Under-14 team in Maryland, with monkey noises, chants of “Go play basketball” and “Get off the ice” or rhetorically hurl the occasional N-word toward him.

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

Divyne was racially abused during a tournament in Maryland last week, and it wasn’t the first time in his five-year hockey career.

His father, Divyne Apollon Sr., gave him hockey’s version of “The Talk” years ago: if an opposing player racially targets you, keep calm, don’t let it throw you off your game, and don’t let the ugly words or actions of others define who you are as a person or player.

“We’ve had several conversations on what your reaction should be – letting a coach know, letting a ref know as soon as you hear someone make a comment,” the father told me. “We’re looking to make it to the next level, the ultimate level, the NHL. You fighting every single game, every single year, no team is going to take you because you’re fighting every single game.”

After hearing about the racial abuse Divyne Apollon suffered on the ice, Tammi Lynch, the mother of a teammate, created this sticker (Photo/Courtesy Tammi Lynch).

But the elder Apollon apparently never gave “The Talk” to his son’s white teammates or other Metro Maple Leafs parents. When they heard and saw what Divyne had endured on the ice at a game last weekend at Maryland’s Bowie Ice Arena, they got into a fighting mood.

“They were so angry about it,” the elder Apollon told Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak, a hockey mom who first reported about the ugly incident. “They seemed even angrier than us.”

Tammi Lynch, a Metro Maple Leafs mom, was among the fighting mad. She didn’t drop the gloves, though. She hit the computer keyboard instead and designed a sticker with the word “racism” and a red hockey stick slashed across it.

“What Divyne had explained to me was so wrong that I felt like we could not just sit there and say ‘Oh gosh, too bad that this happened,'” Lynch told me. “It shouldn’t be happening. And, as a group, we can stand up and say ‘We don’t support this and this is not what our team and hockey is about.'”

Divyne’s teammates placed the stickers on their sticks the next game. Parents wore the stickers on their apparel. It was a simple gesture that scored big with the Apollons  and registered with others within the hockey community.

“I hadn’t realized that so many people actually cared about it until she did make the sticker and all the players had it on their sticks and all the parents had them on their coats or whatever they were wearing that day,” young Divyne told me. “I felt appreciated and like I actually mattered on the team.”

“I was taken aback by it, I was floored, I was elated,”  his dad added. “We had become almost numb to it because it (racist taunting) happened so often. The response was amazing.”

After the elder Apollon, Lynch, and others posted pictures of the stickers on social media, requests came pouring in from other hockey teams wanting copies to put on their players’ helmets and sticks.

“It’s been shocking and amazing,” Lynch said. “Divyne’s gotten emails ‘Can I get stickers from you, can we get them for our team, I’ll take 100, another person said I’ll take 100.’ It has exploded and blossomed.”

Lynch and the Apollons told The Post that they want to carry the anti-racism message beyond stickers. They hope to start a movement called “Hockey > Hate.”

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Capitals’ Madison Bowey and Edmonton Oilers’ Caleb Jones net first NHL goals

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Whether it happens in your 78th game or occurs in just your sixth, netting that first National Hockey League goal is a special moment.

Madison Bowey, defense, Washington Capitals.

Just ask Washington Capitals defenseman Madison Bowey and Edmonton Oilers blue-liner Caleb Jones.

Bowey, who appeared in 51 games for the Capitals last season, finally got his first NHL goal Saturday night – a rifle from the slot at 1:01 of the second period in a 3-2 Washington win over the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa.

Washington rookie defenseman Tyler Lewington also scored his first goal in just his second NHL game. It  was a first period tally that gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead in the opening frame.

“Obviously, it’s a long time, but it definitely felt great,” Bowey told The Washington Post of his of his goal. “It turned out to be a big goal for us…It was awesome, and I know the boys were happy for me, and to get that success, it’s sweet.”

 

Edmonton Oilers defenseman Caleb Jones.

Jones’ first goal, in his sixth NHL game since being called up from the AHL Bakersfield Condors, was one of the few bright spots for the Oilers in a 7-4 drubbing by the San Jose Sharks in Edmonton Saturday.

His score came at 10:40 of the third period in the the Oilers’ fifth straight loss.

“I’m sure in a couple of days when I look back on it, I will have a little smile,” Jones, the younger brother of Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star defenseman Seth Jones, told The Canadian Press. after the game. “But there was a lot of bad things tonight in our game. The moment I scored it, it just felt like a garbage-time goal.”

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Jim Paek played in Pittsburgh, coached in South Korea, but calls Nottingham ‘home’

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Jim Paek won two Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh, coached for his native South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and helped develop players for the Detroit Red Wings farm team in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But the retired National Hockey League defenseman recently called Nottingham, England, “home.”

Paek and his family spent the Christmas holiday in Nottingham, the place where he closed out his professional playing career with the Nottingham Panthers in the early 2000s.

The Panthers, now a member of the Elite Ice Hockey League, honored Paek on December 27 before its game against the Sheffield Steelers.

“We like to call this home, in Nottingham,” Paek told team General Manager Gary Moran on Panthers TV. “This is where my daughter was born. She wanted to come back and have a little feeling of Christmas, and we sure have received that here. Met a lot of great friends that we made in the past, and it’s been absolutely great.”

Paek became the NHL’s first Korean-born player when he joined the Penguins in the 1990-91 season. He helped anchor Pittsburgh’s defense during the team’s back-to-back Stanley Cup run in 1990-91 and 1991-92.

Jim Paek played defense on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ back-to-back Stanley Cup teams in the 1990s (Photo/Pittsburgh Penguins).

He appeared in 217 NHL regular season games with the Penguins, Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators, tallying 5 goals and 29 assists. Paek played in 27 Stanley Cup Playoffs games, scoring a goal and 4 assists.

After bouncing around the old International Hockey League, Paek crossed the pond and joined the Panthers in 2001-01. He signed on to play for the Anchorage Aces of the defunct West Coast Hockey League the following season but returned to Nottingham after 40 games with the Alaska team.

“To be honest, it was hard, it was hard to be in Anchorage, Alaska,” Paek told Panthers TV. “I will never forget the first time coming back (to Nottingham) and stepping on the ice. What a tremendous reception I got.”

Paek played in 84 regular season games for the Panthers, scoring 4 goals and 31 assists. He had a goal and 7 assists in 29 BISL playoff contests before hanging up his skates in 2002-2003.

But his blades didn’t stay in the closet long – coaching opportunities beckoned in North America and beyond. Paek served as an assistant coach for the Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit’s American Hockey League affiliate, from 2005-06 to 2013-14.

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In 2014, South Korea hired Paek to coach its 2018 Winter Olympic men’s hockey team and to basically build a national hockey program from scratch.

The South Korean men failed to register a win at the home-ice Winter Olympics and Paek’s squad was outscored 14 to 1 in three games. Still, he established a foundation that the country’s sports brain trust hopes will translate into wins – and medals – in the near future.

The Korea Ice Hockey Association rewarded Paek with a three-year contract extension in June. He’s on a mission now to make sure that South Korea’s men’s and women’s teams qualify for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

“After the Olympics, I felt I wasn’t done yet,” Paek told Panthers TV. “I needed to do more with Korean hockey and, hopefully, we can move along, progress, and develop nicely.”

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Jason Robertson and Nick Suzuki go from big trade pieces to pivotal players at IIHF World Junior Championship

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Left wing Jason Robertson and center Nick Suzuki have been big deals this hockey season – both on and off the ice.

Dallas Stars forward prospect Jason Robertson.

Robertson, a Dallas Stars 2017 second-round draft pick, was the centerpiece of a major trade in November that sent him from the Kingston Frontenacs to the Niagara IceDogs, both major junior teams in the Ontario Hockey League.

Suzuki, a Vegas Golden Knights first-round draft pick in 2017, was a key piece in the shocking September deal that shipped Montreal Canadiens left wing and team captain Max Pacioretty to Las Vegas.

Both Robertson and Suzuki are expected to be in the thick of things for Team U.S.A. and Team Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Vancouver.

The 10-nation tournament begins Wednesday, December 26, and concludes January 5.  The NHL Network will televise games in the United States and Canada’s TSN will carry every game on its media platforms.

Team USA – 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre on December 25, 2019 in Victoria, BC Canada. (Photo/Images On Ice/IIHF).

Robertson and Suzuki are sure to catch the attention of viewers. Robertson, who is of Filipino heritage, is the OHL’s second-leading scorer with 60 points – 31 goals and 29 assists in 32 regular season games with the Frontenacs and IceDogs.

Left wing Jason Robertson was traded from the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs to the Niagara IceDogs (Photo/Terry Wilson/OHL Images).

The 19-year-old Northville, Michigan, resident’s 31 goals are third-best in the OHL. His 13 power play goals are a league best.

Robertson responded to his trade from Kingston to Niagara Falls by tallying 3 goals and 7 assists in his first three games with the IceDogs.

Center Nick Suzuki was drafted by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 but traded to Montreal in September.

“The Dallas Stars pick has great puck protection abilities and an elite goal-scoring touch, which explains why he’s one of the top producers in the league this year,” The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy wrote of Robertson in November.

Suzuki, an Ontario native whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada from Japan in the 1900s, is having a solid OHL season with the Owen Sound Attack.

The team captain is the Attack’s second-leading scorer with 20 goals and 23 assists in 28 regular season games. He’s the OHL’s 12th-leading scorer.

“He’s got offensive flair where he can be a No.1 power play guy for you,” Owen Sound Head Coach Todd Gill told The Toronto Sun earlier this month. “He’s got every tool in the box, and he has the ability to just make everyone around him better because of his talent.”

Center Nick Suzuki, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, represents Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver (Photo/Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada Images).

Suzuki, 19, and Team Canada begin their quest for a second consecutive IIHF world juniors gold medal Wednesday against Denmark. Robertson’s Team U.S.A. looks to improve upon the bronze medal won in 2018 when it opens the 2019 tournament against Slovakia Wednesday.

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

 

 

 

 

N.Y. Rangers draftee K’Andre Miller makes U.S. World Junior roster

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University of Wisconsin freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller won’t be home in Minnesota for Christmas.

Wisconsin’s K’Andre Miller (Photo/ David Stluka/UW Athletics).

Miller, 18,  will be in Vancouver after earning a roster spot on the United States team that will compete at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship December 26 to January 5.

Miller, who was chosen by the New York Rangers in the first round with the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, is having an impressive rookie campaign at Wisconsin.

The smooth-skating blue-liner is the Badgers’ leading scorer with 4 goals and 13 assists in 18 games. He’s tied for seventh in scoring among defensemen in NCAA Division I hockey. He’s also among the nation’s top 50 D-I scorers.

University of Wisconsin freshman defenseman K’Andre Miller is Vancouver-bound for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo/Greg Anderson/UW Athletics).

“We’ve said from day one that this is a selection process, and as a staff we’re thrilled with the 23 players selected to represent the United States in one of the greatest tournaments on the hockey calendar,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, general manager of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team and also the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.

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“By no means did we come to this decision easily, and that’s a credit to the players,” he added. “It’s easy to say our talent pool is deeper than it’s ever been, but so too is the character of these young players, and now it’s time for these 23 selected players to come together and represent our country with pride,” he added.

Miller had an eye-catching collegiate coming out party of sorts with a four-point game – a goal and 3 assists – against Penn State University on Dec. 3. He became the first Badgers defenseman to accomplish that scoring feat in more than six years.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.”

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