During the month of February, citizens of both the United States and Canada have celebrated Black History Month since the 1970s.
“Hockey Is For Everyone”
This year, the National Hockey League (NHL) and the NHL Players Association celebrate Black History Month for the first time, expanding its focus in February from the league and union’s wide-ranging Hockey Is For Everyone™ initiative to emphasize racial diversity in the sport.
Hockey Is For Everyone uses the game of hockey – and the League’s global influence – to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.
As part of the month-long celebration, the NHL and players union will showcase stories of past and present players as well as highlight pioneers of the game online, on various social media platforms along with specialty programming planned for the NHL Network.
Beginning today, the NHLPA and NHL will celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth. New this season, #HockeyIsForEveryone has expanded to a year-round initiative. More information, including all 31 player ambassadors, here: https://t.co/QX7bVMyq4t pic.twitter.com/uWNgE5hMo2
— NHLPA (@NHLPA) February 1, 2019
American Legacy Black Hockey History Tour
Additionally, the NHL will present for the first time the American Legacy Black Hockey History Tour, a 525-square foot mobile museum that will visit six cities located within the United States with displays that look back on founders, trail blazers, history-makers and Stanley Cup champions. Equally, the mobile museum will focus on the next generation of young stars, NHL officials, broadcasters and women in the game.
The museum will travel to schools, community rinks and NHL arenas during the month of February.
“They’re going to see 200 years of Black achievement in hockey,” American Legacy founder Rodney Reynolds said. “Starting from the 1800s with the development of the Coloured Hockey League in Nova Scotia, all the way through 2018 and looking at players that are part of the sport today. It’s a fascinating journey that attendees of the mobile truck will have an opportunity to experience.”
The tour has already made stops in cities tied specifically to partner NHL teams including, the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, Nashville Predators, and Tampa Bay Lightning. The museum is set to visit the Philadelphia Flyers on February 23rd and 24th as part of the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field and will conclude with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals on February 25th to 27th.
Great Black Heroes in Ice Hockey
The history of black players in North American ice hockey has roots dating back to the late 19th century. The first black ice hockey star was Herb Carnegie during the Great Depression. However, it wasn’t until January 18, 1958, that Willie O’Ree, playing for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens, became the first black person to play in the NHL — an extraordinary event that truly paved the way for future players of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.
O’Ree only played 45 games with the Bruins from 1958-61 but his long professional career spanned 21 seasons, mostly in the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Los Angeles Blades and the San Diego Gulls.
Over the past decade, O’Ree has travelled thousands of miles across North America helping to establish 36 local grassroots hockey programs, all geared towards serving economically disadvantaged youth. While advocating strongly that “Hockey is for Everyone,” O’Ree stresses the importance of essential life skills, education, and the core values of hockey, which are: Commitment, Perseverance and Teamwork.
LAS VEGAS, NV – JUNE 20: Willie O’Ree, NHL Director of Youth Development, poses for photos on the red carpet during the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at The Joint, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)