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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.