NHL Celebrates Black History Month: 10 Great Hockey Pioneers

April WeinerCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2011

NHL Celebrates Black History Month: 10 Great Hockey Pioneers

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    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 30:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers looks on during warm ups before the 58th NHL All-Star Game at RBC Center on January 30, 2011 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When people think of hockey players, they generally think of white North Americans.

    But there have been many black hockey players that are helping to change the image of the league and get more diversity into the league. These hockey pioneers are helping to get young, diverse players interested in hockey.

    In honor of Black History Month, here are 10 great hockey pioneers.

10. Evander Kane

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    MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 2:  Evander Kane #9 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Thrashers defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.  (P
    Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Young stars like Evander Kane help to grow the game for young black fans as talented young offensive stars.

    The Atlanta Thrashers organization has been accused of purposefully building their team with black players to help attract more fans from the predominantly black population of the area into Philips Arena. That may or may not be a valid accusation.

    Kane is one of five black hockey players on the Thrashers: Dustin Byfuglien, Nigel Dawes, Johnny Oduya and Anthony Stewart.

9. Ray Emery

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    PHILADELPHIA - JANUARY 28:  Ray Emery #29 of The Philadelphia Flyerslooks on against the Atlanta Thrashers during their game on January 28, 2010 at The Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Ray Emery made an impact on the game. He may be one of the more well-known black players active currently or in the past few years.

    The goaltender played in Ottawa before going to the KHL for a bit. He then went to play in Philadelphia before being sidelined with a hip injury that has kept him out of play since.

8. Georges Laraque

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 12:  Georges Laraque #17 of the Montreal Canadiens fights with Eric Boulton #36 of the Atlanta Thrashers at Philips Arena on December 12, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Georges Laraque is known as one of the toughest guys of hockey. He was known for his fighting skills on all the teams he played on, particularly the Pittsburgh Penguins and lastly the Montreal Canadiens.

    He has since retired and is making his mark on Canadian politics.

7. Tony McKegney

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    DAYTONA BEACH, FL - MARCH 06:  Tony McKegney (C) pose with kids during the Florida hockey day at the  Daytona Ice Arena on March 6, 2010 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for NHL)
    Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

    While Tony McKegney wasn’t the first black player in the NHL, he is regarded as the first one to make an impact.

    He entered the league in 1978 and went on to have a career as a prolific scorer. He held the record of the black player with the most points until Jarome Iginla broke it in 2002.

6. Kevin Weekes

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    RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 29:  Jeff Skinner (C) of the Carolina Hurricanes for Team Staal speaks to Kevin Weekes (R) and Jeremy Roenick as he arrives at the NHL All-Star red carpet part of 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend on January 29, 2011 in Raleigh, North Caroli
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Kevin Weekes endured a lot of racism throughout his career. He overcame it and serves as an example to young players.

    After he retired from playing hockey, he became the first black host of Hockey Night in Canada. He now can be seen on NHL Network.

5. Anson Carter

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    EDMONTON, AB - SEPTEMBER 18:  Anson Carter #33 of the Edmonton Oilers warms up before the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs during their preseason game on September 18, 2007 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Tim Smith/Getty Images
    Tim Smith/Getty Images

    Anson Carter is another of the names on this list that began having an impact on the game.

    He began his NHL career in the Washington Capitals organization. He moved around a lot in the NHL, playing for eight teams in total. He then went to play in a Swiss national league.

4. Mike Grier

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    BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 23:  Mike Grier #25 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against  David Booth #10 of the Florida Panthers at HSBC Arena on December 23, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Mike Grier was the first African-American player in the NHL. The black players preceding him were all of Canadian descent, making Grier the first bona fide African-American NHL player.

    Grier made his debut in 1996 with the San Jose Sharks. He currently plays for the Buffalo Sabres. Grier is a pioneer for black Americans to get interested in hockey.

3. Jarome Iginla

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    TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 15:  Jarome Iginla #12 of the Calgary Flames shoots during warmup before game action against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre January 15, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Jarome Iginla is a pioneer in a couple different aspects.

    First, in 2002 he became the first black male athlete to win a hockey gold medal, winning with the Canadian men’s ice hockey team.

    Then in 2003, he became the NHL's first black captain when he was named captain of the Calgary Flames.

    Iginla’s personality has been well-documented as how a hockey player should act off the ice. He is an incredible role model.

2. Grant Fuhr

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    EDMONTON - NOVEMBER 21:  Grant Fuhr #31 of the Edmonton Oilers Alumni takes a moment to catch his breath at outdoor practice in very cold temperatures November 21, 2003 in Edmonton, Alberta. Practice is in preperation for the upcoming Heritage Classic hoc
    Dave Sandford/Getty Images

    Grant Fuhr has been described as the best black hockey player.

    He has always been described by Wayne Gretzky as the greatest goaltender ever.

    He was the first black player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He serves as a role model to young hockey players of any color.

1. Willie O'Ree

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    BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 26: Willie O'Ree, Director of Youth Development for the NHL, meets with Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown the 2010 Willie O'Ree skills weekend - welcome celebration at the Albright Knox Art Gallery on March 26, 2010 in Buffalo, New York.  (
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Willie O’Ree was the first black player to play in the NHL. For that accomplishment, he is often referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of hockey” because he broke the color barrier in hockey.

    He first played in the NHL for the Boston Bruins for a few games in 1958. O’Ree faced a lot of racism in arenas across the United States.

    However, he didn’t quit, and he is the pioneer for getting black players into the sport.