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.