This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
For as long as anyone can remember, the performance of the organized sport has been one of the most cherished pastimes of American culture. From an entertainment perspective, sporting institutions have created many financial gains for corporate entities.
From a social perspective, they have served not only as blatantly visible achievements for young athletes, but also as a divider for who’s who among the social hierarchy. Few other countries have succeeded in cultivating as many mainstream sports as the United States; however, few countries have succeeded in creating such racial boundaries within these sports as well.
Just about every sport has a predominant race that is supposedly “the best” at doing it. Besides basketball, and perhaps football, the stereotype is usually that of the white man being the top dog; history has shown there has been little to no black influence in the histories of any of the major American sports that we have come to love so much.
One sport that has become notorious for a lack of African-American participation, perhaps simply do to its nature, is hockey. Although the National Hockey League is over 95% Caucasian, current research has come to show that, despite it’s reputation as an “all-white” sport, hockey was actually popularized in the Americas through African-American efforts.
Residing in the bitter locale of Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada), with little to do in their spare time but much to prove to themselves, the African-American sons and grandsons of the last generations of runaway slaves decided to reform a sport in which they could show a talent of endurance that many thought they did not possess. What they formed was what would later come to be known as the first Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes. In 1895, the league would revolutionize the game as we play it today.
The Coloured Hockey League was initially thought to be a joke. For a group of blacks to make any type of legitimate movement in business would already be doubted enough, but when factoring in the idea that blacks were not agile enough to skate upon ice, not physically capable of enduring the cold climate, and not intelligent enough to formulate competent strategy, whites thought the league was doomed.
In short time, many of the teams within the league soon began to show up other teams in the area, even when they were often times outnumbered and under equipped. They did this through their use of coded words carried over from the Underground Railroad, a sophisticated understanding of momentum and inertia, and through their intense belief that God was always on their side. Through the use of custom shoe blades (what would later become the norm in modern hockey) and the implication of a new technique, the "slapshot," the Coloured Hockey League set a name for itself, which struck fear into the hearts of opponents in Canada and beyond.
Sadly, with time, their influence came to be great enough that their Caucasian counterparts found reason to dismantle the league, on reasons highly speculated, but still undisclosed to this day. In the process, many contributions the Coloured Hockey League made to the game of hockey were ignored, credited to the new organization of the National Hockey League and, quite simply, stolen from the original league and stylistically implemented into the “white-man’s” style of play.
Even through this travesty, the players of the Coloured Hockey League were known to believe in racial equality through teamwork and sport. They felt that, with time, the barriers set by slavery could be broken through impartiality in athletics.
It was with this passion that they drove their way towards not only winning games throughout their careers, but being at peace with themselves through their day to day lives.
Fosty, George Robert & Fosty, Darril. Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925. Stryker-Indigo Publishing Company: Levittown, New York, 2004.`Powered by Sidelines