The Stat Line of the Night – 7/26/10 – Matt Garza
9 Great Black Pro Hockey Players – Past and Present
All joking aside, ice hockey is a relatively unexplored territory for black sportsmen. Ask fans to cite a black golfer, and they’ll at least be able to name Tiger Woods. But most will stop dead in their tracks on the subject of black hockey players.
While black athletes are less prolific on the rink than they are in the field or on the court, they still have a sizable presence in the game. In honor of these often overlooked athletes, here are nine of the best black hockey players, past and present.
1. Willee O’Ree
No list on the topic would be complete without Willee O’Ree. Hailed as the “Jackie Robinson of Hockey” for breaking the NHL color barrier, O’Ree was the first black professional player. On January 18th, 1958, he made his debut with the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens. People often erroneously refer to him as the first African American in the NHL even though he bears Canadian citizenship. In fact, he noted that racist remarks were much worse in the U.S. than in Montreal and Toronto. As a result, NHL players are now required to take seminaries on diversity training before each season, and racially charged verbal abuse is punishable through suspensions and fines.
2. Jarome Iginla
Once touted as the first captain of African descent in NHL history (a title he shares with Dirk Graham), this right wing helped the Canadian team earn two Olympic gold medals in 2002 and 2010. He’s currently the Calgary Flames’ all time leader in goals, points, and games played. With a grand flourish, he scored more than 50 points in a season for the second time between 2007-2008.
3. Grant Fuhr
Drafted in 1981 and 8th overall, goalie Grant Fuhr began a ten-year run with the Edmonton Oilers. During that time, the team won five Stanley Cups. After his retirement in 2000, Fuhr was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003, the first black player to receive the honor. And is currently the goaltending coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
4. Dirk Graham
A retired forward for the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota North Stars, he’s considered the first black hockey captain (along with Jarome Inginla), given that one of his parents is bi-racial. During his career, he received the Frank J. Selke Trophy for outstanding defensive play by a forward. He is currently retired from professional Hockey, but still serves as a scout for the San Jose Sharks.
5. Mike Grier
O’Ree may have been the first black player in NHL history, but Grier lays claim to the title of the first native-born African-American player. Currently under the wing of the Buffalo Sabres, his former teams include the Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and the San Jose Sharks. His efforts helped the United States earn the Bronze medal in Prague for the 2004 International Ice Hockey Federation Championship.
6. Dustin Byfuglien
While Dustin Byfuglien began his career as a defender, he was moved to right wing, a position at which he excelled. A grinder type froward that players hate to play against and someone that everyone wants on their side. In 2010 he helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup win since 1961. He was recently traded Atlanta Thrashers.
7. Kyle Okposo
Kyle Henry Erovre Okposo (born April 16, 1988 in St. Paul, Minnesota) Drafted in the 1st, 7th overall, Kyle Okposo’s talents were such that he was recruited from the University of Minnesota before obtaining his degree, a decision that caused some controversy. After a stint in the minor leagues, he was called up to the New York Islanders in March of 2008, and is considered to be an up-and-coming star in the NHL.
8. Evander Kane
Evander Kane (born August 2, 1991) While Kane’s career has barley begun, he is certainly off to an impressive start. In 2009, he was picked 4th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL draft, making him the highest ranked black draft pick of all time and in that same year he won a Gold medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
9. Anson Carter
Carter has played for the Boston Bruins, Edmoton Oilers, New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Carolina Hurricanes throughout his colorful career. His goal in the World Championship granted Team Canada the gold in 2003. This right wing also founded Big Up Entertainment, a record company focused primarily on Hip Hop music.