Canadian's George and Darril Fosty can be thanked for adding color and texture to a game already glowing with it. The Fosty's (white) produced extensive and enlightening research in their book, Black Ice, illuminating the participation and contributions of Canadians of African descent in the 1800's in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Fosty's research points out that black hockey squads were entertaining all white audiences, while displaying outstanding speed and skill in hockey's early history.
Also impressive was the book's reference of the use of slap-shots and butterfly styles by goaltenders long before they came into vogue in the NHL. Stars of that era included "Hippo" Galloway ,and many others.
This was well before Willie O'Ree made his mark as the first player of African heritage to play in the NHL in the 1950's with the Boston Bruins after starring in the Quebec junior ranks.
The 21st century has seen a larger number of players make it to the NHL and the NHL brain-trust has even contributed to developing more African American youth by creating the "Hockey Is for Everyone" program.
Herb Carnegie was the first black player to be universally acknowledged as a sure-fire star. Carnegie played hockey with break neck speed and abandon. He was a clever stickhandler, a powerful skater, and an accurate shooter who could confound his opponents with a dipsy-doodle move or power right through checkers for a goal.
Much has been written about Conn Smythe of the Toronto Maple Leafs saying he would pay $10,000 if someone could make Carnegie white. Another way to look at it could be Smythe's desire to obtain a player with the skills of Carnegie, if he could meet the criteria of the day. With racial discrimination being so wide spread in that era such comments are really not that surprising.
Whatever the case, Herb Carnegie should have made the NHL. Hall of Famers Jean Beliveau and Frank Mahovolich both tout Carnegie's excellence and support the premise of unfairness. It should also be noted that Carnegie was top scorer on the Quebec Aces Senior league team. That team included future Hall of Famer Beliveau.
Willie O'Ree experienced a lot of adversity as the first Black player to ever play in the NHL. Once, his team had to lock him in a closet for his own protection.
It is important to note that O'Ree was called up to the Bruins without anyone knowing that he could only see out of one eye. O"Ree was involved in an accident that limited him, but he still took the chance to live his dream and make it to the NHL.
Also interesting was that O'Ree played during the time of great civil unrest in America. While he was playing with the Bruin's American blacks were beginning to march and sit in.
O"Ree has NHL speed and tenacity, but his scoring touch was hampered by his lack of sight and he settled into a long and productive career in the minor leagues playing with the San Diego Gulls. O'Ree now works for the NHL Diversity Initiative and regularly speaks about and promotes hockey all over the United States. He is also heavily involved in Hockey Is for Everyone.
Tony McKegney came into the NHL full of potential. He displayed a star caliber performance and was capable of scoring lots of goals. McKegney even had a 40 goal season. Several teams recognized his ability, and for some reason. he was traded quite often.
McKegney was known for his excellent skating ability and speed, which allowed him to get open for shots. He was an able sniper and finisher, consistently scoring everywhere he went. He ended his career unceremoniously, but has emerged as a great ambassador for the Hockey Is For Everyone campaign.
Grant Fuhr was voted one of the Top 100 players ever in the NHL and was elected into the NHL Hall of Fame in 2003. Fuhr was known as a goalie capable of turning it on at key times to help his team win.
Fuhr's attributes were his catlike reflexes and ability to come up big in the playoffs. Fuhr played with Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Jarri Kurri, Mark Messier, and Glen Anderson. But when the chips were down, they often relied on his all-star net-minding to win important games and Stanley Cups. Fuhr was a pillar for the Edmonton Oiler dynasty.
Dirk Graham was known for his tenacity and intensity on a hockey rink. He played for the Chicago Blackhawks during their mediocre years. His conviction to give 110 percent made him a natural choice as captain. He was the first black to receive a captain title, although it is widely thought to be Jarome Iginla. Graham also was honored by receiving the Selke Trophy. Graham is still involved in hockey, coaching in the minor leagues.
Donald Brashear made his mark in the NHL using his size and determination to carve his career. Brashear is not a extremely gifted player. He is only an adequate skater with decent passing and shooting skills. What got him in the NHL, and what keeps him there, is his superior physicality.
Brashear has had battles with almost every NHL heavyweight, and has come out on top almost every time. His battles with fellow heavyweights such as George Larogue and now-retired Tie Domi have been well chronicled. Fans are surprised to find out that Brashear is an accomplished pianist.
Jarome Iginla is has been one of the most consistent players in the NHL during the last decade. H has many strengths and he uses all of them. Iginla is a feared scoring threat, a excellent fighter, and able playmaker. He is also a exceptional leader and is captain of the Calgary Flames.
Iginla has played without a capable centerman for most of his career, but still has won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice as the league's top goal scorer. He has also won the Lester Pearson Trophy, which is awarded to the league MVP chosen by the players.
Iginla has also been a standout for Team Canada and was named captain of the team by Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky, at the time, called Iginla "one of the best in the world." Although struggling with slumps this year, Iginla is still amongst the leaders in scoring and is an alternate captain on Team Canada.
Trevor Daley has displayed his skill and leadership ability since his days in junior hockey with the Sault Saint Marie Greyhounds. Daley was named captain of the team and later was drafted by the Dallas Stars.
Not wanting to trade Daley, as they did with Iginla, Dallas allowed a chance for him to get some developmental time with Utah in the minors. Daley began to respond playing toward his strengths. Daley is a excellent skater and puckhandler and has been recognized by by his team's management as a key contributor.
Daley has also shown a humanitarian side, hosting young aspiring hockey players and assisting the NHL in the Hockey is for Everyone program. Daley is still a rising star with the Stars.
Ray Emery looked like he was following in the footsteps of Grant Fuhr. While playing for the Ottawa Senators, Emery almost led them to the Stanley Cup with his solid, sometimes spectacular, play in the net. Unfortunately, the team seemed to come apart the next season and Emery ended up playing for Philadelphia after some turmoil.
There is no question the somewhat flamboyant and confident Emery can deliver the goods. When he is on his game, he seems to absorb the puck and frustrate shooters at every turn. The Flyers are hoping that is the persona he displays in the playoffs this year.
Nigel Dawes has answered the critics, who thought he was too small to make it in the NHL. Dawes has used his speed, skill, and determination to earn a spot on the Flames' roster and has scored some key goals for them this year. Dawes has also seen some time on the powerplay and penalty-killing units. A standout in juniors, the Flames are betting that Dawes can consistently contribute in Calgary.
Val James is most noted for being the first American-born Black player to make it to the NHL. James had modest skills, but since his arrival, many other players have set their sights on a career in the NHL.
Evander Kane is only 18 years old, but has been able to hold his own. First, he made the Thrashers. Now he has started to improve his game, scoring goals, and on many nights, proving to be the Thrashers' best forward.
Coach John Anderson has shown confidence in Kane by placing him on the penalty-kill unit. Kane has managed to score goals without doing any time on the Thrashers' powerplay. With a little more development, Kane could be a standout as a sophomore in the NHL.
The word that best describes P.K. Subban is confident. Subban started the year in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens. Subban was a standout junior player and played well in the World Tournament. Subban is a good skater with electrifying moves and an excellent shot. Subban's likely to be an all-star in the NHL after he gets a little more seasoning.
The NHL has supported Learn to Skate and hockey skills classes for urban youth to introduce them to the exciting world of hockey. The results have been modest, but the NHL has not given up on the concept.