NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Over the last twenty years, The National Hockey League has been transformed into a diverse affiliation of franchises unlike those in other sports. NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Over the last twenty years, The National Hockey League has been transformed into a diverse affiliation of franchises unlike those in other sports. Thirty teams strong, the NHL retains its “original six” teams in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, New York, Montreal and Toronto while expanding into non-traditional cities, such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, Florida, and Atlanta among others.
So too has the composition of players.
The NHL is a veritable United Nations of countries and cultures being represented. Beginning with the Swedes and Finns in the eighties, followed by the wave of Russian stars through the mid-nineties and, over the last five years, exceptional talent from the Czech Republic. No longer can the NHL claim to be simply a cluster of Canadian teams with Canadian players. Instead, it is a loose cooperation of Canadians, Americans, and Europeans trading body checks, goals, and penalty minutes.
Even within this changing demographic appears the most unlikely of all: the African Canadian/American. Where once it was almost unimaginable seeing a black man playing professional hockey, it has become almost commonplace.
Currently, there are thirteen blacks in the NHL spread across eight teams, ranging from skilled superstars to role players, and fighters. The leading scorer in the league and most valuable player candidate, Jarome Iginla, is African Canadian.
Process that for a moment. A black man is leading the National Hockey League in scoring. As a longtime observer who still has scar tissue along his eyebrows from playing back in the day, I find that very significant, and it fills me with tremendous pride.
Indeed, they have come a long way.
What is not understood is that blacks have a history in hockey dating back to 1900.