Doesn’t the NHL Know About Black Folk and Hockey?

There was a joke I heard a while back.

Q.Why don’t black people play hockey?
A. Cause no black person is going to be trying to run from a bunch of white folks with sticks on ice.

You can’t run on ice and most blacks can’t ice skate. It’s like black women who wear perms and swimming…not a good match. Well, the NHL wants some of that black consumer pie and is making a bid to bring in black fans in Atlanta. There was a time when tennis and golf were not followed by the black community, when black folks didn’t care because they didn’t see themselves on the green or on the court. Arthur Ashe, Althea Gibson, Venus Williams, and Tiger Woods had a lot to do with that. If the NHL wants black ticket payers…they need black star players. I live in Washington, DC and one of the city’s biggest ice skating rinks (if not the only one) is in a majority black “hood” in SE, but you wouldn’t know it. Outside of organized events, community centers/programs, etc…black folks are not using it in droves. There’s no all black hockey team operating out of it, but there are plenty of black, athletic kids in the city who could play on one. Interesting, isn’t it. I wonder how many African American kids are playing hockey? How many black fans are there in the seats at NHL games?

National Post – This has always been the great black city. The population is more than 60% African American, and even today, the seeds sewn by Atlanta native Martin Luther King are seen everywhere.

So it was the perfect place Friday for a luncheon commemorating the 50th anniversary of Willie O’Ree’s arrival as the first black man to play in the National Hockey League.

Whoopi Goldberg sent a video tribute. Giant posters of Jarome Iginla, Mike Grier, Georges Laraque, Tony McKegney, Grant Fuhr, Ray Emery and Kevin Weekes served as a backdrop for National Hockey League’s very public wooing of its largest, untapped demographic in the United States. Here yesterday, they celebrated the Colored Hockey League of Nova Scotia, where families who escaped slavery in the south on the Underground Railroad played hockey, one of Canadian history’s more poorly recorded facts.

“It’s kind of ironic this year that we are in Atlanta, the whole slavery connection and everything,” mused McKegney, a Sarnia native whose skills were so superior, people were forced to forget the colour of his skin. “It would have been interesting to know what it would have been like if you were average.”

Today’s black NHLer is, by and large, a product of a suburban, upper-middle class, Canadian (or Boston) upbringing. They come from hockey hotbeds where indoor and outdoor rinks abound. Their parents could afford the fees, equipment and travel that have forced the cost of being a hockey parent up through the roof — especially in the U.S., where fewer teams and rinks equals more travel and expense.

That is the nut the NHL has to crack, as they travel O’Ree around this season as their Jackie Robinson. It is one thing to entice black kids to want to play in the NHL. But unless they can they afford what it costs to even start down that road, that untapped market might just stay untapped.

I sure hope the NHL does it’s research before it does something dumb like…producing commercials with hip hop music in the background, or something like that. Opps, too late. Anaheim Ducks will appear on Snoop Dogg’s new television show, Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood, as the hip hop icon gets a hockey lesson. The National Hockey League has had a diversity program for more than a decade. I wonder what they think of their results.

2 Comments

Filed under african american, black, black man, business, celebrity, children, community, culture, d.c., history, news, opinion, race, sports, washington, washington dc, white folks, youth

2 responses to “Doesn’t the NHL Know About Black Folk and Hockey?

  1. M. Stewart

    Will you kind of late, my son has been playing since 5. An he’s a freshman in high school and already made the team. He can hang with the best of them.

  2. CED

    I stumbled upon this site when I googled “black women and hockey.” I’d like to first say, I love it. I giggled at “for black people who have problems integrating.” 🙂

    I believe it will take a great black player or players to make it their personal mission to get hockey into black neighborhoods. I discovered hockey by accident, really. My parents just so happened to have gotten me a plastic hockey stick when I was a kid and I never stopped playing. Sadly I am female and did not learn to play on ice soon enough, otherwise maybe I could be the one to invest money into black urban hockey foundations. Until a black player makes it his personal mission to grow the sport, I don’t believe it will ever happen.

    I remember when I made up my mind to go from street hockey with my friends to organized ice hockey. The expense of hockey equipment is ridiculous. I don’t care what color your skin is, if you are broke you are not playing ice hockey. Period. The second big expense dealing with hockey is ice time. I was lucky as I just so happened to have went to the only public high school in NJ that had its own ice rink…which is strange considering it was a small, working-class community that was about 3 miles long. Had we not had our own rink, we would have to BUY ice time. So if the NHL truly wants to entice black fans, they need to do more than forge a cheap cameo on Snoop’s reality show.They need to expose black kids to the game and make it affordable.

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