Mason’s camera followed Lindo, then a forward for the Ontario Hockey League’s OwenSound Attack, through the high of awaiting the 2014 National Hockey League Draft and the low of suffering a severe season-ending knee injury that jeopardized his draft prospects.
Jaden Lindo scored 21 goals for the Sarnia Sting in 2016-17 (Photo/Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
The dramatic arc in the film ends with the Pittsburgh Penguins taking the injured Lindo in the sixth round with the 173rd overall pick in the draft. Happily ever-after, right? Well, not yet.
“It didn’t work out the way I hoped with Pittsburgh, but there are different routes to getting to there (to the NHL),” Lindo told me in a recent telephone conversation from Accra, Ghana, where he and his family were vacationing. “There’s still a lot more for me to achieve and I still have a lot of potential that I still haven’t reached. I’m completely optimistic.”
But things didn’t work out with the Pens. Lindo returned to Owen Sound where the 6-foot-2, 214-pound right wing had 14 goals and 16 assists in the 2015-16 season.
He was traded to the Sarnia Sting for the 2016-17 season and tallied 21 goals and 14 assists in 58 games as a 21-year-old in his final year of OHL eligibility.
Lindo says his script to the NHL isn’t finished. He’s committed to play Canadian college hockey at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario this fall. The team, which posted a 24-14-0 record last season, is stocked with former major junior players.
The Queen's Gaels have a commitment from forward Jaden Lindo from the Sarnia Sting for the 2017-18 season. pic.twitter.com/E7dNEhNyjH
Other former major junior players have taken the Canadian college route and landed in the NHL, most notably San Jose Sharks right wing Joel Ward, who skated for the University of Prince Edward Island after his Owen Sound career ended.
Like Ward, Lindo is a rugged power forward. But Lindo models his game after another Owen Sound alum, Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds. Lindo even lived in the same billet residence that Simmonds did during his major junior days.
His season for Sarnia completed – he had 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 OHL playoff games for the Sting – Lindo played two exhibition games last week for the Jamaican national hockey team effort in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His family is of Jamaican descent.
His play in the exhibition games caught the eye of Bill Riley, a Nova Scotia resident who became the NHL’s third black player when he joined the Washington Capitals in 1976.
“He has all the tools,” Riley told me. “I had a real good chat with him after the game. I said to him, ‘Look, you have everything it takes to be a pro.’ I told him it’s 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. I said ‘if you’ve got the right mindset, don’t take no for an answer.”
Lindo appreciated the advice from Riley, who served as a Junior A hockey general manager and a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League head coach.
“He’s someone to reach out to and talk about hockey,” Lindo told me. “He knows the game, he’s been a pro, he knows what it takes. If I ever need that support, I have the ability to reach out and talk to him.”
They hail from different places and backgrounds. They’re of different races, ethnic groups, and faiths. But put a stick in their hands and skates on their feet, they’re all the same: hockey players.
It’s fun writing about the history and growing impact of people of color in hockey, but frustrating at the same time. A lot of people still don’t realize how diverse the sport is becoming, how the face of hockey is changing.
Seeing is believing, so here are some of the players of color who were on the rosters of National Hockey League teams when the 2016-17 season opened last week. If you have any questions about the players, take a deeper dive into this blog for some of their stories.
Joel Ward has an idea for the National Hockey League to honor the history and growing impact of black players in the sport: Retire the number 22 Willie O’Ree wore with the Boston Bruins when he became the league’s first black player in 1958.
“I definitely think Willie should be recognized for sure,” Ward told ESPNSunday, the media day before his San Jose Sharks face the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “It’s a no-brainer. Without Willie, it would be tough for me to be sitting here today. I definitely think Willie should be a big part of this.”
O’Ree, who serves as the NHL’s director for youth development and ambassador for diversity, skated into hockey history on Jan. 18, 1958 when he played for the Bruins against the MontrealCanadiens at the old Montreal Forum.
A right wing, O’Ree appeared in 45 games over two seasons for the Bruins – 1957-58 and 1960-61 – and tallied 4 goals, 10 assists and 26 penalty minutes. Though his NHL career was brief, O’Ree enjoyed a lengthy minor league career, playing primarily for the SanDiego Gulls and the Los Angeles Blades of the old Western Hockey League.
His career minor league numbers: 328 goals, 311 assists, 669 penalty minutes in 785 WHL games; 21 goals, 25 assists, 37 PIMs (penalties in minutes) in the Pacific Coast League; and 21 goals, 24 assists and 41 PIMs in 56 American Hockey League contests.
He enjoyed a long professional career despite playing blind in his right eye, the result of a hockey injury.
Diversity on display. Left to right: Philadelphia Flyers forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Wayne Simmonds with Willie O’Ree and former Flyer goalie Ray Emery (Photo/Philadelphia Flyers).
O’Ree’s contribution to the game can be measured beyond goals and assists. He’s the godfather to players of color, from pee wees to the pros. It’s not unusual for minority NHLers, from rookies to veterans, to seek him out for advice.
“He’s my elder,” high-scoring Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds told reporters during an O’Ree visit to the team in 2015. “I treat him with respect and let him know I have a lot of admiration for him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be playing the game today.”
Karl Subban – father of Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subbanand Vancouver Canucks defense draftee Jordan Subban – once told me that if one of his boys felt they were wronged in the hockey world, he’d remind them of what O’Ree and Mike Marson, the NHL’s second black player, endured.
O’Ree isn’t in the Hockey Hall of Fame, but he is in the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame and the San Diego Hall of Champions. In 2007, he received the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
But Ward feels the time has come for the NHL to honor O’Ree by retiring his number, the same way Major League Baseball universally retired Jackie Robinson’s 42 in 1997. Ward wears 42 in honor of Robinson.
“It would be great if they did,” Ward told ESPN. “Obviously that’s something that would be a great discussion about. With the amount of respect Willie has around the league, it would definitely be something special if that did come up.”
Ward’s on the cusp of making hockey history himself. Either he or Penguins defenseman Trevor Daleywill be the next black player to have his name etched onto the Stanley Cup.
With the Stanley Cup Final opening Monday, here’s a little more black hockey trivia:
Traded to Pittsburgh by Chicago, defenseman Trevor Daley may get his name on the Stanley Cup.
There are only two black players in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Fuhr was inducted in 2003 and Angela James, regarded as one of Canada’s greatest female players, was inducted in 2010.
They will surely have company whenever Colorado Avalanche forward Jarome Iginla retires. Playing with the Avalanche, Penguins, Bruins and Calgary Flames, Iginla has tallied 661 goals, 662 assists and 1,273 PIMs in 1,474 NHL regular season games.
Iginla has 37 goals, 31 assists and 98 PIMs in 81 playoff games. He owns two Winter Olympics Gold Medals, earned in Vancouver in 2010 and Salt Lake City in 2002.
He also has gold from the 2004World Cup of Hockey and 1997International Ice Hockey Federation WorldChampionship.
Iginla, whose father is from Nigeria, will probably have the longest and coolest name on a Hall of Fame plaque if he choose to use the full handle: Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla.
Joel Ward strikes again, scoring a crucial Stanley Cup Playoffs goal.
Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jacksonearned the nickname “Mr. October” for his home run exploits in the playoffs and World Series.
San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward has earned the reputation as “Mr. April” or “Mr. May” for his post-season heroics. Ward showed why the Sharks signed him to a three-year contract last summer as he scored a beautiful goal in the Sharks’ 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators in a second-round Stanley Cup Playoffs tilt Friday night.
“I just try to embrace the moment,” the 35-year-old veteran told the Associated Press. “I just think it’s the atmosphere of the crowds whether its home or away. Everyone is ramped up.”
Ward has 15 goals and 26 assists in 59 career playoff games. He’s averaging a point a game – 1 goal and 5 assists – in six playoff games this post-season. When he played for the Predators, Ward scored 7 goals in 12 playoff games in 2011. Another important number: Ward wears 42 to honor Brooklyn Dodgers baseball great Jackie Robinson.
He’s the crusher of goalie dreams. In 2012, as a member of the Washington Capitals, he scored a Game 7 overtime goal past Tim Thomas that eliminated the BostonBruins from the playoffs. In last season’s playoffs, he scored a game-winning goal with one second left that beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers.
You can call Ward anything – a baller, a player, the X-Factor, The Man, money, a beast, a stud, “Mr. April” or “Mr. May.” Whatever it is, just make sure you call him one hell of a playoff hockey performer.
Hockey playoffs are in full swing and players of color are at the center of the action.
From the National Hockey League to Canada’s major junior leagues to the alphabet jumble of various minor leagues, players of color are providing heroics and highlights in the early rounds.
Washington Capitals’ Joel Ward getting it done in playoffs – again.
Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward further enhanced his reputation as a clutch playoff performer with his game-winning goal against the New York Rangers with 1.3 seconds left in the third period in the first game of a second-round series opener at Madison Square Garden.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Ward’s buzzer-beater against Rangers all-world netminder Henrik Lundqvist marked only the third time that a winning goal had been scrored in an NHL playoff game with less than two seconds remaining.
Game-ending heroics are becoming old hat for Ward. He’s got three playoff walk-off (or skate-offs) goals, the most dramatic being a Game 7 overtime winner that vanquished the Boston Bruins from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012.
Anaheim Ducks left wing Emerson Etem is yet to score an NHL playoff game-ending goal. But he did recently notched a highlight reel goal in the Ducks’ opening round series against the Winnipeg Jets that melted the “White Out” of Jets fans inside the MTS Centre and drew oohs and aahs from amazed teammates.
Emerson Etem eats up Jets defenders on goal.
Born in Long Beach, California, Etem wasn’t much of a scorer during the 2014-15 regular season, tallying only 5 goals and 5 assists in 45 games for the Ducks. But he has 2 goals in five games in the still-young playoff season – and loads of confidence after undressing the Winnipeg Jets.
A few rungs below the NHL, forward Connor McDavid is getting his share of snazzy playoff goals for the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. The likely Number One pick in June’s 2015 NHL Draft is the Main Man in Erie, the straw that stirs the Pennsylvania-based franchise.
But folks lucky enough to catch the Otters’ playoff series against the Sault Ste.Marie Greyhounds on the NHL Network couldn’t help but notice Erie forward Nick Baptiste. He potted 4 goals in a crucial Game 4 against the Greyhounds, a team that featured defensemen Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round draft pick, and Anthony DeAngelo, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2014 first-round draft selection.
“It was one of those nights where you just try to shoot as much as you can, and they go in,” Baptiste said after the game. “Fortunate enough to get the goals, but more importantly, the win.”
Erie won the game 7-5 and eliminated the Soo from the playoffs four games to two. The series was a high-scoring affair that offered a glimpse of the future for the downtrodden Buffalo Sabres.
Sure, a bad Ping-Pong ball bounce or two in the NHL Draft Lottery cost the Sabres – the league’s worst team in the 2014-15 season – the first-overall pick and a shot at McDavid in June’s draft.
But with the Number Two pick in the upcoming draft, Buffalo is poised to get a great player in Boston University forward Jack Eichel. And more help is on the way talent-wise to Buffalo in the near future in the form of players like Baptiste.
Nick Baptiste’s performance in the OHL playoffs brought Erie Otters fans to their feet (Matt Mead/Matt Mead Photography).
The Sabres chose him in the third round of the 2013 NHL Draft. In the 2014-15 regular season, Baptiste tallied 32 goals and 32 assists in 53 games with the Otters and the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves. He has 11 goals and 9 assists in 15 OHL playoff games thus far.
Baptiste was one of the last players cut in tryouts for the Canadian team that went on to win the Gold Medal in the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation World JuniorChampionship.
The Greyhounds also featured a future Sabre in right wing Justin Bailey. A Buffalo second-round pick in 2013, Bailey scored 34 goals and 35 assists in 57 games with the Greyhounds and the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers. The Western New York native tallied 7 goals and 7 assists in 14 playoff games for the Greyhounds.
Hockey wasn’t easy for Val James – from picking up the game as a young Long Island rink rat, to literally fighting his way through the minor leagues, to trading punches with some of the toughest enforcers in the National Hockey League.
But for James, the NHL’s first American-born black player, the roughest opponents often weren’t on the ice. They were in the stands.
“Think about going on the ice, 40 games a year on the road, and every three seconds of a 60-minute game, you’re getting a racial slur thrown at you over a 10-year period,” he told me recently.
Val James writes about the bitter and the sweet in his hockey career (Photo/Kwame Damon Mason)
James and co-author John Gallagher recount the hostility he endured and the good times the left wing experienced in hockey during the 1970s and 80s in his book, “BlackIce: The Val James Story,”which goes on sale Feb. 1.
He writes honestly about his career as an enforcer – not a goon – whose punching power instilled fear in opponents. He unflinchingly describes the racial abuse he endured during a professional career that spanned from 1978-79 with the Erie Blades of the old NorthEastern Hockey League to 1987-88 with the Flint Spirits of the International Hockey League.
“You’d get depressed every now and then over it, thinking ‘why are these people doing this, they don’t know me.’ I’m just out to entertain them, to give them a night out with their families, their girlfriends, whoever,” he told me. “It can work on your psyche if you let it. I was lucky enough to have a lot of good people around me. My teammates supported me totally.”
James, the NHL’s first African-American player, appropriately played for the AHL’s Rochester Americans (Photo/Rochester Americans).
Canadian-born Willie O’Ree became the NHL’s first black player when he debuted with the Boston Bruins in 1958. James, 57, was the league’s first U.S.-born black player and probably the only NHLer born in Ocala, Florida.
His path to hockey started when his family moved to New York and his jack-of-all-trades father took a job at the Long Island Arena.
“He started out being a night watchman there, fixing things when they needed to be fixed,” James told me. “Then he ended up getting into the operations of it all.”
With dad working in the arena, young Val James got freebies for every major 1970s rock & roll act when they played the Island – the Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Burton Cummings.
He also regularly watched the EHL Long Island Ducks play and practice at the arena, fascinated by the speed and aggressiveness of the game. When James got his first pair of ice skates at 13, and with his dad owning a key to the stadium, the Long Island Arena became his practice facility.
“I’d grown up watching the Canadian men play hockey for the Long Island Ducks skate on this same ice,” James and Gallagher wrote. “I imagined myself as one of them.”
James developed into a good enough hockey player to be a 16th-round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 1977, though he never played for the team. He cracked the BuffaloSabres’ roster in 1981-82 after signing as an unrestricted free agent.
He appeared in seven games for Buffalo that season and found it hard getting a lot of ice time with a Sabres lineup that featured tough guys like defensemen Lindy Ruff and Larry Playfair.
“The top guy was Larry Playfair. He was a heavyweight, I was a heavyweight. So that spot was already filled,” James said. “The second line was Lindy Ruff. They all had multi-year contracts at the time because they never expected a guy like me to come along.”
After five seasons in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans
James enjoyed NHL tours with Buffalo and the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo/Graig Abel).
and the St. Catharines Saints, James returned to the NHL for four games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1986-87.
His NHL career stat line: No goals, no assists and 30 penalty minutes. But it’s the minor leagues where James had his greatest impact. He played in 630 games, tallied 45 goals, 77 assists and accumulated more than 1,175 penalty minutes – most of them with the AHL Americans.
A lot of those minutes were fives for fighting.
“It was something I was really good at,” James said.
Mike Stothers, head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs, can attest to that. He and James fought 13 times during a seven-game playoff series when Stothers was a defenseman for the Hershey Bears and James a winger for the St. Catharines.
“He was very good, probably one of the toughest at the time in the American Hockey League. He might have been the toughest ever in the American Hockey League,” Stothers told me. “He was a big man, very strong.”
Stothers paid James the highest compliment one enforcer can give another: “He was an honest fighter.”
Mike Stothers fought James 13 times in one AHL playoff series (Photo/Philadelphia Flyers)
“There was never any extra stuff: no cheap shots or stick work involved,” he added. “He never took liberties on skilled players.”
But that never stopped so-called “fans” from taking liberties on James. Objects and racist taunts were routinely thrown his way.
“At that point in time when I was coming up, it was always bananas, pictures of people from Africa with the bone in their nose, spear in their hands, the shields,” James told me. “People would make 8-foot, 9-foot signs like that and display them. At that time, there was no governing of behavior, players or fans, by the leagues.”
It was so bad that when CBS followed James in 1981 for a segment for “CBS News Sunday Morning,” the public address announcer at the Salem-Roanoke County Civic Center felt compelled to remind game attendees that use of offensive language was prohibited – something he’d never done before.
“Either way, neither the announcement nor the presence of the news cameras could stop the slurs and, as usual, not a single soul got tossed out for playing the racist fool,” James and co-author Gallagher wrote.
But there were times when people took stands against the abuse aimed at James. When two Richmond Rifles fans cast a fishing line with a toy monkey tied to it into the penalty box where James was sitting, referee Patrick Meehan stopped the EHL game and demanded the ejection of the offending fans.
“He did something that could have possibly at that point got him killed or lynched after the game,” James said. “But, nonetheless, he stood up for something, and that means a lot to me.”
Meehan, now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, said he wasn’t trying to make a statement. He just trying to stop something that was “fundamentally wrong.”
“That’s not something that’s ‘fans just being fans.’ That can’t be tolerated,” Meehan
Former hockey referee-turned U.S. Congressman Patrick Meehan threatened to stop an EHL game to halt abuse aimed at James.
told me recently. “I did blow the whistle and skated over to the penalty box and I told (Richmond Rifles officials) that if those fans weren’t ejected from the game, I wouldn’t continue officiating that game and that game would be done.”
“I remember the owner came down and he was like ‘What are you doing?'” Meehan added. “I looked at him and said ‘That’s wrong.’ He said ‘You can’t do it.’ I said ‘Whether I can or can’t, I am because I will not skate in a game that condones that activity, so you make a choice.'”
The fans were ejected and the game went on.
On most nights, James took racial justice in his own hands – taking out his anger at the crowd on an opposing player.
“Since I couldn’t act on my fantasy of shoving a hockey puck down the throat of every big-mouthed racist, one acceptable way for me to respond to these attacks was to turn up my physical play,” James and Gallagher wrote. “If I could knock one of their hometown players into next week, then some of my anger might fade.”
James said he’s pleased to see the growth of players of color in hockey, from youth leagues to the pros.
He thought the sport had put its racial woes behind it until some Boston Bruins “fans” unleashed online racist tirades against Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward for scoring a game-winning overtime goal that eliminated the Bruins from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012 and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban for scoring a double-overtime game-winning goal against Boston in last season’s playoffs.
“It tells me that the state of hockey has advanced but hasn’t advanced, all in the same breath,” he said. “Those Boston incidents, they might be the same relatives of the people that tried to get me back in the 80s, right?”
Since hanging up his skates, James has traded hard ice for soft water. He works as a water park mechanic in Niagara Falls, Ontario, a short drive from Rochester and Buffalo – homes of his hockey glory days.
Rochester fans remember James not only for his fisticuffs but also for scoring the game-winning goal for the Americans in the deciding game of the 1983 Calder Cup championship against the Maine Mariners.
The Americans are holding a “Val James Legends Night” on Feb. 13 – the day before his birthday – at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena. In Buffalo, he’s been invited to speak to the kids of Hasek’s Heroes, an inner-city hockey program founded by former Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek.
James hopes the attention from the book will lead to opportunities to get back into organized hockey, perhaps in the coaching ranks.
“I think I can help the sport out more than I have,” he said.
The 2014 National Hockey League Draft concluded Saturday with alums of the SkillzBlack Aces youth hockey teams doing the squad’s smiling Afro-man logo proud.
Three Skillz veterans were chosen in the draft Saturday, joining Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua
Barrie Colts and Skillz alum Brendan Lemieux.
Ho-Sang, who was taken Friday night in the first round with the 28th overall pick by the New York Islanders. The draft began Saturday morning with the Buffalo Sabres choosing Brendan Lemieux, a Skillz alum who’s a forward for the Ontario HockeyLeague’s Barrie Colts, with the first pick in the second round, the 31st overall pick.
While elated to be selected by Buffalo, Lemiuex, the son of former NHLer Claude Lemieux, was disappointed that he wasn’t chosen in the first round, where some mock drafts projected him. Lemieux tallied 27 goals, 25 assists and a whopping 145 penalty minutes in 65 games for Barrie during the 2013-14 season.
“I expected to be a first round pick and never really looked at the second round,” Lemieux told Yahoo Sports. “But that being said, things have a way of working out.”
The Skillz Black Aces and Black Mafia teams began as Toronto-based summer youth hockey teams coached by Cyril Bollers and comprised of elite, NHL draft-eligible players born between 1995 and 1996 – and almost all of them black. As the program became successful, kids of all colors began filling out the rosters.
A torn ACL didn’t stop Pittsburgh from drafting Skillz alum Jaden Lindo.
Alums include Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds defenseman Darnell Nurse, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2013 first-round pick last summer; Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey, a BuffaloSabres second-round pick; forward Stephen Harper of the Erie Otters; and Bellville Bulls defenseman Jordan Subban, the Vancouver Canucks’ fourth-round pick and the younger brother of Montreal Canadiensdefenseman P.K. Subban and Boston Bruins goaltending prospect Malcolm Subban.
Now add Lemieux, Keegan Iverson, and Jaden Lindo to the list. Iverson, a forward for the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, was scooped up by the New York Rangers in the third round with the 85th overall pick. He registered 22 goals, 20 assists and 85 penalty minutes in 67 games for the Winterhawks. Last week, the Minnesota-born Iverson was among 42 players invited by USA Hockey to attend the U.S.National Junior Evaluation Camp, an audition for a roster spot on Team USA for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation WorldJunior Championship tournament.
“Pretty exciting stuff,” Amy Iverson, Keegan’s mother, said in an email message Saturday.
Portland and former Black Aces forward Keegan Iverson.
Iverson barely had time to celebrate being drafted. He boarded a plane Sunday for the Big Apple to attend the Rangers prospect camp, which runs June 30 to July 4 at Madison Square Garden Training Center.
“With the way the game is going you’ve heard every GM say we want to get bigger and stronger and faster, and that heavy style; well that’s the type of game (Iverson) plays,” Gordie Clark, the Rangers director of player personnel said on the team’s website. (Portland) had a really good team with five really high-skilled players that got most of the ice time. So I think with more ice time available next year (Iverson’s) numbers will go up.”
Iverson didn’t attend the draft at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, preferring to watch at home in St. Louis Park, Minn., with his family. Lindo wasn’t in Philadelphia, either. The forward for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack was trying to watch the draft on television at home in Ontario, Canada.
Frustrated with the broadcast’s lag in listing drafted players, Lindo switched on his tablet to get more up-to-date results. That’s how he learned he was chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round with the 173rd overall pick. Lindo was surprised about being selected because he suffered a torn left ACL that curtailed his 2013-14 season at Owen Sound.
The power forward who lists Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds and Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward as role models, collected 9 goals, 9 assists and 41 penalty minutes in 40 games for the Attack.
“When I saw my name, I just screamed,” Lindo told me. “My mom jumped up and hugged me. I feel amazing, Pittsburgh’s a good organization. I’m going to work harder than before so the (knee) rehab goes well.”
The Penguins foresee Lindo becoming a Simmonds-like NHL power forward.
“Jaden Lindo is big, good along the wall, heavy on pucks, strong, good on the forecheck…great low game,” Randy Sexton, the Penguins co-director of amateur scouting said on the Penguins official website. “He’ll chip in with some offense, very reliable defensively.”
Any comparisons to Ward and Simmonds, who led the Flyers with 29 goals last season, is fine with Lindo.
“I try to model my game to theirs,” he told the Penguins website. “They’re both strong, physical players. I’m a big, strong winger. I like to use my size and strength to my advantage. I’m physical. I like to separate men off the puck and create room for my teammates.”
The love is especially appreciated because a Washington Capitals player was partially responsible for my decision to start the blog. I fiddled around for years with the idea of writing a blog, but couldn’t figure out what to blog about.
Then came Game 7 of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoff series between the Capitals and the Boston Bruins. When Capitals right wing JoelWard scored the series-clinching goal 2:57 into overtime, it should have been a celebration of sports drama at its best – an underdog team knocking out the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Instead, it showed the sad underside of some people at their worst. Several Bruins fans couldn’t handle the truth that a black man put the puck in the net and vanquished their beloved “B’s” to an early summer vacation.
They responded with racist venom that oozed from their keyboards and into the social media universe. The mean-spirited emails, tweets, and Facebook posts were so bad that it prompted the NHL and Bruins organization to issue statements chastising those so-called fans. Leonsis bashed the authors of the hate-filled missives for their display of keyboard courage.
The episode showed me that, despite a steady influx of people of color in hockey in recent years, a lot of folks still have a lot to learn about the history and growing influence of minorities in this wonderful game.
So Ward’s goal cemented what I wanted to do in a blog: To tell an under-told story, to educate, and, hopefully, entertain people with tales about what people of all stripes are doing in hockey. Hence, the Color of Hockey.
When the blog began, I had no idea how far or where it would go. You can only write so much about minorities in hockey before it gets redundant, I figured. Boy, was I wrong.
From the number of minority players chosen in last summer’s NHL Draft, to OldSpice Guy Isaiah Mustafa’s passion for hockey, to the three Indo-Canadians playing for the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips, to 69-year-old civil rights attorney John Brittain recounting his days as possibly the lone black high school hockey player in New England in the early 1960s, the blog has found different pathways to convey what we’re doing in the game.
I’m learning that there are a ton of stories out there, from pee-wee hockey to the pros.
And the readers have been a blast! I love the tweets from people who follow the blog at @ColorOfHockey – especially those from minority parents who never envisioned being inside frigid ice skating rinks with their kids at ungodly hours but are now all-in as full-fledged, die-hard hockey parents.
So Thanks for the love, Ted, and please keep reading. And thank you, Joel. Please keep scoring – and reading – too.
Hollywood and the Canadian film industry love turning sports stories into movies – especially fact-based, against all-odds, underdog-to-overachiever athletic tales.
“Remember the Titans” chronicled a Virginia high school football team overcoming racial barriers to become champions. “Pride” captured the story of the U.S.’s first all-black competitive swim team. “CrookedArrows” spun the real-life-inspired tale of a Native American youth lacrosse team. Heck, even Disney couldn’t resist turning the story of the Jamaican Bobsled Olympic team into the comedy “Cool Runnings.”
But when it comes to making feature films or documentaries about the rise of blacks in ice hockey, it seems to be a challenge convincing the entertainment powers that be that it’s a worthwhile venture. That hasn’t stopped Kwame Damon Mason, Joe Doughrity and George Fosty from trying.
For years, the three men have separately been knocking on the doors of film and television industry-types on both sides of the border to get them interested in supporting, funding, and eventually airing their individual hockey film projects.
“It’s a tough sell,” Doughrity told me recently. “When I’ve had meetings at studios about it, they think it’s a great story but hockey is the fourth or fifth sport. It’s not the NFL, the NBA or Major League Baseball.”
Hockey documentary-maker Joe Doughrity.
It’s not like hockey is an unknown quantity to showbiz folks. The sport has starred or played a prominent role in many a film, from the 1970 tear-jerker “Love Story” to Paul Newman’s classic “SlapShot” to director John Singleton’s “Four Brothers.”
Television and film producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a pick up hockey regular in L.A. And Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., has been known to suit up for games. Still, getting a black hockey project green-lighted has been a slow slog.
Doughrity, a Detroit transplant who moved to Los Angeles to pursue a movie industry career, has been searching for backing to finish the documentary he started on the Detroit Rockies, an all-black Midget AA team that shocked the hockey world by winning a Can/Am tournament in Lake Placid in 1995. The young Detroiters outscored their U.S. and Canadian competition 35-8 on the way to capturing the title.
The Rockies’ story is compelling enough that Doughrity is working with Fox Television Studios on a pilot that uses the team as a springboard to explore the passion for the game and the resilience of the people of Detroit. He’s also working towards a feature film about the team.
“It’s been happening for a couple of years now,” Doughrity said of the television pilot. “On the feature film side, a pretty well-known producer named Mike Karz, he’s done a bunch of Adam Sandler films, he’s spearheading the feature film version. I can’t tell you anything definitively about a start date, who might be in it, because it’s all in its infancy.”
Still, the slow pace of the projects hasn’t diminished Doughrity’s excitement or drive to get the Detroit hockey story on the big or small screen.
“I love the story,” he said. “It will help make black kids feel comfortable playing the sport because they get it from both sides: they get it white kids who don’t think we play hockey, they get it from black kids who don’t think we play hockey. I want to make something cool about being black and playing hockey.”
Mason, a Toronto resident, recently launched an online fundraising drive on to support
Kwame Damon Mason interviewed hockey great Herb Carnegie, left, before he passed away in March 2012.
his documentary: “Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future.” For his project, Mason has interviewed some of the game’s black trailblazers, including the late Quebec Aces legend Herb Carnegie, who was regarded as one of the greatest hockey players never to reach the NHL; current players such as forward Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals; and follows the budding career of JadenLindo, a right wing for the Ontario Hockey League’sOwen Sound Attack. Lindo, 17, will be eligible for the 2014 National Hockey League draft this summer.
Mason hopes to have cameras rolling at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on June 27-28 to chronicle how Lindo fares at the draft. But until then, he’s out to raise $40,000 via the international crowd online fund-raising site Indiegogo to help keep film production going.
Mason has gone all-in on his project. He set aside his job in radio two-and-a-half years ago to devote all his time to conducting interviews, raising money, and trying to persuade entities like the Canadian Broadcasting Company to air the documentary when its hopefully finished by next September.
“I’m just being a starving artist right now and putting everything into the project,” he said. “It’s a perfect time for it, more blacks are coming into the league,” Mason said. “It’s not a new phenomenon with blacks playing in the NHL. But I think there needs to be this attention or understanding about the history of it because, as they say, you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’re coming from.”
Kwame Mason profiles Owen Sound’s Jaden Lindo in his documentary.
Fosty and his brother, Darril, are equally passionate when it comes to trying to generate studio and investor interest in expanding their documentary which is based on their 2004 ground-breaking book, “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey Leagues of the Maritimes, 1895-1925.”
The book and documentary trace the roots of modern hockey, from the slap shot to butterfly-style goaltending, to an all-black league comprised largely of runaway U.S. slaves who settled in the Canadian Maritimes.
“It’s not been easy at all,” George Fosty told me. “You walk in with a hockey history, and a black history on top of it, add a Canadian history element to it, that’s three strikes and you’re out of it already. They’re going to say ‘Somebody in Iowa is not going to be interested in this.'”
But he and other filmmakers say that perception is slowly fading as movie and TV executives are taking note that the changing complexion of hockey reflects the changing racial and ethnic demographics of the United States and Canada. in other words, movie-goers and TV audiences are becoming browner.
Fosty says recent conversations that he’s had with Canadian television executives about the possibility of making “Black Ice” a made-for-TV movie make him feel encouraged that the tide may finally be changing for him, Doughrity, Mason and their projects.
“We’re rounding third and heading home,” Fosty said. “These films will be reality, they will be made. Now do you want to work with us or stay on the sidelines? That’s the big question in the meetings we have with industry people today.”