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Black history and ice hockey

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Black history in ice hockey has roots dating back to the mid 20th century. One of the first black stars of ice hockey was Herb Carnegie during the Great Depression. Willie O’Ree would break the NHL’s colour barrier with the Boston Bruins.

Colored Hockey LeagueEdit

The Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes began as an initiative of Black Baptists churches in Nova Scotia. The aim was to increase and retain male membership. The league consisted of teams from Halifax, Africville, Hammond's Plains, Dartmouth, Truro, Amherst and Charlottetown, P.E.I. All games were on an invitational basis and no trophy was ever used. Historically, they were the first league to allow the goaltender to drop to the ice to stop the puck.[1]


Ontario was geographically large, and it was impossible in the early 20th century to organize an all-black league like in Nova Scotia. Some of the early black players in Ontario hockey history include the following. In 1899, Hipple Galloway played for a team based out of Woodstock in the Central Ontario Hockey Association. [2] In 1916, Fred (Bud) Kelly of London played for the 118 Battalion team of the Ontario Hockey League. Apparently, Kelly was scouted by the Toronto St. Pats, but was never officially contacted. One of the first all-black teams in Ontario was the Orioles. The team was from St. Catharines and played in the Niagara District Hockey League during the 1930’s.

BlackAces HerbCarnegie

Black Aces line

Herb Carnegie’s hockey career began in 1938 with the Toronto Young Rangers and continued in the early 1940s with the Buffalo Ankerites, a team in a mines league that played in mining towns in northern Ontario and Québec. While with the Ankerites, Carnegie was part of the Black Aces line.[3] The other line members consisted of his brother, Ossie Carnegie and Manny McIntyre, originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick. They were recognized as much for their talent and skill as their skin colour (Herb was at centre, Ossie was right wing, McIntyre was the left wing). In the semi-professional Quebec Provincial League, Herb was named most valuable player in 1946, 1947 and 1948.

In 1948, Carnegie was given a tryout with the New York Rangers and offered a contract to play in the Rangers' minor league system. However, he was offered less money than he was earning in the Quebec league and turned down all three offers made by the Rangers organization during his tryout.


  • Alton White played for the New York Raiders, Los Angeles Sharks, Michigan Stags, and Baltimore Blades) of the (WHA). White is best known for being the second player of African descent, after Willie O'Ree, to have played on a professional major league ice hockey team[4] In addition, White is the first hockey player of African descent to score 20 goals in a single season. He did this for for the Los Angeles Sharks during the 1972-73 season. During the same 72-73 season, he became the first black player in history to score a Hat-trick in a major league professional game.[4]
  • Tony McKegney was raised by a white family in Sarnia, Ontario. At age twenty, Tony McKegney signed a contract with the now defunct World Hockey Association’s (WHA) team in Birmingham, just to see the owner illegally renege on the deal after fans threatened to boycott the team for having added a black player to its roster[5]. In the NHL, McKegney would go on to score over 300 career goals, including 40 in the 1987-88 season. His total of 78 points in the same season would remain the highest ever recorded by a black player until Jarome Iginla broke the record in 2001-02.


On April 3, 2001, Jay Sharrers made NHL history as the first black referee to officiate an NHL game. He worked his first game as an NHL ref when the Philadelphia Flyers faced the visiting Florida Panthers. [6]

Willie O’ReeEdit

O'Ree is referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of ice hockey" due to breaking the colour barrier in the sport. He was called up to the Boston Bruins of the NHL to replace an injured player. He made his NHL debut with the Bruins on January 18 of the 1957–58 NHL season, against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black player in league history.

Michael MarsonEdit

Marson played five seasons in the National Hockey League for the Washington Capitals and the Los Angeles Kings. He was drafted in the 2nd Round, 19th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft and would become the second African-Canadian to play in the NHL. Mike Marson and Bill Riley (the third black player in the NHL) became the first two black players to play in an NHL game together.[7] The two played with the Washington Capitals.


  • Mike Grier was born in Detroit, Michigan and made his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers. With the 1996–97 season, Grier became the NHL's first African-American player born and trained in the United States.[8]
  • Grant Fuhr was the first black goalie in the NHL and the first black player to win the Stanley Cup. When his career was over, he was the first black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Grant Fuhr)[9]
  • Jarome Iginla is a five-time NHL All-Star, who is also the Flames' all-time leader in goals, points, and games played. At the start of the 2003–04 season, he was named the Flames captain. This made Iginla the first African-Canadian captain in NHL history.

Women’s hockeyEdit

Angela James played in the Central Ontario Women's Hockey League, precursor to the National Women's Hockey League and Canadian Women's Hockey League. She represented Team Canada internationally. She scored 34 points (22g, 12a) in 20 games over four women's world championships,[10] including 11 goals in five games in the inaugural IIHF World Women's Championships, held in Ottawa in 1990.[11] In 2008, she, along with Cammi Granato (USA) and Geraldine Heaney (CAN), became the first women to be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hockey Hall of Fame.[10] James is the daughter of a black father and white mother; she is the only African-Canadian to captain a national hockey team.[12]

Breaking the barrierEdit

NHL Club First black player Season
Boston Bruins Willie O'Ree1957–58 NHL season
Buffalo Sabres Tony McKegney
Edmonton OilersGrant Fuhr
Los Angeles Kings Mike Marson1974–75 NHL season
Washington CapitalsMike Marson
Winnipeg JetsBill Riley[13]

Career statsEdit

Player Team Games Goals Assists Points
Jarome IginlaCalgary Flames 1047450 488 938[14]
Tony McKegneyBuffalo Sabres
Quebec Nordiques
St. Louis Blues
Detroit Red Wings
912320 319 639[15]
Anson CarterWashington Capitals
Boston Bruins
Edmonton Oilers
New York Rangers
Los Angeles Kings
674202 219 421[16]
Mike Grier Oilers
1012159 216 375[17]
Claude Vilgrain New Jersey Devils
Philadelphia Flyers
8921 32 53[18]
Mike Marson Washington Capitals
Los Angeles Kings
19624 24 48[19]
Dale Craigwell San Jose Sharks9811 18 29[20]

Historic firstsEdit

  • First black player in an NHL Game: Willie O'Ree
  • First black referee in an NHL game: Jay Sharrers, April 3, 2001
  • First American born black player in an NHL game: Mike Grier
  • First black goalie in the NHL: Grant Fuhr
  • First black player to win the Stanley Cup: Grant Fuhr
  • First black captain in the NHL: Jarome Iginla
  • First black coach in professional hockey: John Paris Jr. of Windsor, Nova Scotia become the first black coach in professional hockey with the Atlanta Knights in 1994[21]
  • First black player in the Hockey Hall of Fame: Grant Fuhr)
  • First black captain for Canadian national team: Angela James
  • First black player to score 20 goals in a single season: Alton White, Los Angeles Sharks, WHA, 1972-73 season
  • First time two black players played in the NHL in the same game: Mike Marson and Bill Riley
  • As of the 2010-11 NHL season, the only African American player agent is Eustace King.[22]


  4. 4.0 4.1 "Rink Rookie Makes Hockey History", Ebony: 64–68, 1973, <>
  5. Tony McKegney
  9. Jim Kelley. "First black inductee pleased to be role model". November 3, 2003. Retrieved on September 10, 2008.
  10. 10.0 10.1 "IIHF Hall of Fame adds seven", International Ice Hockey Federation, 2008-05-16. Retrieved on 2008-05-28. 
  11. "Two OBHA Hall of Famers Recognized by International Ice Hockey", Ontario Ball Hockey Association, 2007-12-20. Retrieved on 2008-05-27. 
  12. Angela James. Ontario Black History Society. Archived from the original on 2008-06-06. Retrieved on 2008-05-27.
  22. The Hockey News, Volume 64, Number 14, January 17, 2011, Publisher: Caroline Andrews, Transcontinental Media

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