Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Professional Hockey

Published By: Insomniac Press

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Sports & Recreation

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Reviewed by Connie Anderson

"Don't you know blacks don't play hockey," was once shouted at National Hockey star Jarome Iginla, when as a 5-year-old he was playing floor hockey in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta.

This is a great book for hockey fans, but also for people who love to read inspirational stories about people to achieve things against great odds. These odds include no other kids playing hockey (white or black) in their neighborhoods and no access to ice or coaches.

The author loved hockey from little on, and was the only person in his Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, New York neighborhood who did. There was no one he could even talk hockey with, like boys do about football, basketball and baseball. As an adult, he became a sports journalist and covered hockey.

Many of the black players in NHL have a heritage that dates back to Nigeria or Barbados, families who moved to Canada.

In his comments in the book, Grant Fuhr tells how after his 19-year career, which ended in 2000 with the Edmonton Oilers--he was inducted as the first black hockey player to the Hall of Fame in 2003. He said that U.S. media mentioned that he was black, but that fact was not mentioned in Canadian media--where race isn't a big deal. Fuhr said, "Either you are good player or you are not, you are a good person or your are not. That's the way it should be!"

In today's world with famous golfer Tiger Woods, who is black and Asian, and Venus and Serena Williams, who are black championship tennis player, the author says that provides further evident of what can occur when natural talent and hard work interact with opportunity.

Today the NHL has 600 players, 16 who are black. The men he writes about want to be an inspiration and role models for the black players to come.

Writing about the black men who broke the color barrier, he tells the story of:
-- Willie O'Ree, who broke the color barrier with the Boston Bruins in 1958;
--Tony McKegney, a former Minnesota North Star, was the first black to store 40 goals in the NHL season. He was traded seven times, once for dating a white woman who became his wife
-- Mike Marson, former Washington Capital "bonus baby" in the mid-70s, whose marriage to a white woman brought abuse from both sides of a virulent racial divide
-- Jarome Iginla, NHL's Most Valuable Player in 2002, first black captain in NHL history and the only black man to win a Winter Olympic gold medal. Iginlas father emigrated from Nigeria and as a doctor, wanted his son to be a professional, either a doctor or a lawyer. Iginla was being raised by his white mother after the divorce, and she encouraged his hockey playing
--Herb Carnegie, a hockey star in the 1930-40-50s who never joined the NHL.

Armchair Interviews says: Cecil Harris tells a good story and shows us another side of sports, of racial issues but most of all, about a person;s will and desire to do what it takes to succeed, in spite of huge odds. "He SCORES!"

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