A Bridge Must Be Built Between The Black Community And Hockey

I admit that I know nothing about hockey. Maybe it’s by choice, by upbringing or sheer ignorance. Whatever the case is, it’s still a foreign sport to me. I think it’s time that change.

Where I grew up there was no rink in sight. Being raised from a three-minute walk to one the biggest playgrounds in Philadelphia, Fairmount Park. There were dozens of basketball courts and open grass to play football and soccer, but where was the outlet for hockey?

You can’t blame the kids as we just didn’t know. The city has to take fault on that as they decided what neighborhood parks would receive funding for certain sports projects. Just so happens that the African-American communities were left out when it came to hockey.

Growing up in North Philly, we heard about hockey. The Broad Street Bullies, Orange & Black, Ron Hextall, Eric Lindros and that was from hearing about it during the 5-minute sports wrap on the local news station. We wore the Starter jackets and knitted hats with the Philadelphia Flyers logo just because we were from Philly. But actually knowing about a player’s bio, attending a game, watching or knowing how the sport is conducted was out of our league. Basketball was forced down our throats and so was football but no one took the time to introduce us to hockey.

Don’t get me wrong, the sport looks exciting. It’s fast-paced, freewheeling and most of all for a guy; it’s violent. How can we not like it? We just have to be willing to learn about it.

America has a long tradition of racial standards and most of the time it’s not the ones involved that share a hatred for each other. It’s the outsiders who draw a line in the sand and tell us what side to stand on. Baseball was like that at first in the urban communities, but slowly it started to migrate into the urban settings. Why can’t the same be done for hockey?

The government is not going to do it for us. It has to be done by those in different positions. Look at Pee Wee football games. You will see NFL stars attending games, signing autographs, all the while getting an earful from a local activist about donating money to the Boys & Girls club for better equipment. Urban communities must stand on their own and reach out to their city’s NHL players and get them to come for a visit, speak to the kids, call the city officials to put pressure on them to get rinks, equipment, and leagues going on. This is the only way it will work.

Personally, I can’t rollerskate so I can imagine trying to fly around the ice on a single blade. But the sport looks very interesting and seeing friends and colleagues write or talk about it, I feel somewhat left out. It’s not because I am black that I was raised not to like it. I was shielded from it. But this is not what I want for my kids and this is what the sports world should want for my kids.

Golf became popular in the black community due to the success of Tiger Woods but when he fell off so did the black views. Now tennis has seen a spike in ratings and match attendance as the Williams’ sisters’ have kids interested in that sport.

Not to get on a race issue, but if the kids in these communities can’t relate to a white guy from Russia then what’s the next best thing?

The NHL must use a business-savy approach the same way the Democrats did when they put Barack Obama in front of the nation. They wanted the minority vote and the only way to make sure that was to pluck an African-American candidate from the bottom of the pile. The NHL should get a current player like P.K. Subban or a former Stanley Cup Champion like Grant Fuhr to let the kids know that no matter their skin color they can succeed in this sport.

The NHL has 25+ black players in the league and somewhere in that bunch they can appoint a face for the culture to get the inner-city youth inspired in a sport that was shielded from us.

Last season I attended my first live hockey game. At 40, it’s never too late to try new things.

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