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Hockey Pioneers

January 31, 2002

A look at the history of black players, coaches, executives and referees in hockey:


* Hipple Galloway and Charley Lightfoot played in the Central Ontario Hockey Assn. in 1899, and are credited as the first blacks to play professional hockey. Galloway was expelled the following summer from an Ontario Baseball League team because an American player took exception to his presence on the roster.* In 1900, the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes in Nova Scotia was formed. Fans paid 25 cents to see decent hockey as well as a Harlem Globetrotter style act. The league ceased operation in the '20s.



* Frank Selke called Bud Kelly, "the best Negro hockey player I ever saw." Legend has it that Kelly learned to skate on two whiskey flasks that were tied to his shoes. Kelly excelled on Selke's 118th Battalion squad and flirted with the prospect of joining the NHL's Toronto St. Pats (later the Maple Leafs).

* Another outstanding black player of the '20s was George Barnes, who played for Cayuga in the Ontario Hockey Association. According to local lore, Barnes was involved in a nasty fracas in which an opposing player bled to death.

* From 1937 to 1941 the all-black St. Catharine's Orioles played in the Niagara District Hockey League.



* "I'll give any man $10,000 who can make Herb Carnegie white." That statement was attributed to Conn Smythe, owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the '40s, and was typical of the era. Herb Carnegie, along with his brother, Ossie, and Manny MacIntyre were known as the "Black Aces," a swift, rugged, high scoring line in the Quebec Senior Hockey League. The Black Aces were talented enough to play in the NHL, but they made great money barnstorming in the Quebec League and had side jobs with the team's corporate sponsor. In 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers broke the color barrier in baseball with the debut of Jackie Robinson. The New York Rangers may have had the same history-making idea when they invited Carnegie to training camp that same year. But Carnegie was instead offered a contract to play for the Rangers' top farm club and he decided to go back to the security of the Quebec League.

* Arthur Dorrington became the first black professional hockey player in the U.S. when he signed a minor league deal with the Rangers in 1950. Dorrington chose instead to play for the Atlantic City Seagulls of the Eastern League, and led them to a league championship in 1951. Dorrington continued to play minor league hockey throughout the '50s and likely saw plenty of hockey players in the off-season, as he was a practicing dentist.

* Willie O'Ree broke the NHL's color barrier on Jan. 18, 1958, when he played for the Bruins in a 3-0 win over the Montreal Canadiens at the Forum. O'Ree was playing for Quebec City's minor-league pro team when he got the call-up from the Bruins. Known for his speed but not his hands, O'Ree scored only four goals in 45 games over two seasons with Boston. O'Ree went on to have a successful career with the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League until 1974. * Center Stan Maxwell joined O'Ree in Los Angeles as the only other black player in professional hockey in the U.S. in the '60s.



* As only the second black hockey player in NHL history, Mike Marson made his NHL debut with the Capitals in 1974-75 and recorded career-highs of 16 goals and 28 points in 76 games. Marson bounced between the minors and the NHL for five more seasons until calling it quits as an L.A. King in 1980. A third black player, Bill Riley, also entered the league with the Capitals in 1975.

* With 344 goals over a 13-year career, including eight seasons with more than 20 goals (including a 40-goal season in 1987-88), Tony McKegney was the NHL's first black offensive star.

* Hard hitting right winger Ray Neufeld joined the NHL in 1979 and enjoyed a solid 10-year NHL career with the Whalers, Jets and Bruins.

* In 1982, Val James became the first African-American to play in the NHL, when he laced up the skates for the Sabres.

* A shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame, Grant Fuhr was the NHL's first black goaltender, as well as the first black hockey player to win the Stanley Cup. Fuhr won five Cups with the Edmonton Oilers and continued to have a phenomenal career until he retired with the Calgary Flames in 2000. Fuhr won a Vezina Trophy as the NHL's best goaltender in 1988 and his 403 wins rank sixth all-time.

* The Chicago Blackhawks' Dirk Graham was an outstanding two-way player, as evidenced by the Selke Trophy he won as the NHL's best defensive forward in 1991. Graham was named the NHL's first black coach in 1998-99. However, the Blackhawks' woeful 16-35-8 record under Graham had him out the door before the end of the season.

* John Paris was the first black head coach in professional hockey and led the Atlanta Knights to the International Hockey League championship in 1994.



* Forwards Anson Carter, Mike Grier and Jarome Iginla all entered the league at about the same time in 1996-97, each with enough talent and ability to become future stars.

* Donald Brashear, Peter Worrell, Georges Laraque, and Jean-Luc Gran Pierre are known to be among the toughest players in the league.

* Jay Sharrers became the NHL's first black to referee a game when he worked a Flyers-Panthers game on April 3, 2001. Sharrers had worked 642 games as a linesman previously.

* Ex-NHL player Graeme Townshend is the coach and director of player personnel for the Greensboro Generals of the ECHL.

* The Edmonton Oilers opened the 2001-02 season with four black players on their roster, Mike Grier, Georges Laraque, Anson Carter and Sean Brown. The St. Louis Blues began the season with three, Fred Brathwaite, Jamal Mayers and Bryce Salvador.

* There are 15 black players currently in the NHL.

Research by Roy Jurgens

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