Luke Perret ’24
There have been countless Black hockey players in the National Hockey League (NHL) who have made an impact on the ever-changing game. In celebration of Black History Month, I will be highlighting some of these influential Canadians
Willie O’Ree (b. 1935) was the first Black hockey player to lace up their skates in an NHL game. On January 18, 1958, the Boston Bruins needed an extra forward for their game against the Montreal Canadiens. At the time, O’Ree played with the Bruins’ Quebec Hockey League affiliate, the Quebec Aces. He scored 13 goals and 19 assists in 57 games during the 1957-1958 season and earned the call-up to the NHL as a result. O’Ree has continued to leave his mark on hockey through an ongoing partnership with the NHL to spread the game to new neighbourhoods. On January 18, 2022, the Bruins retired his number 22 jersey.
Grant Fuhr (b. 1962) is one of the best goaltenders of all time. Fuhr made his NHL debut in 1981 with the Edmonton Oilers and in 1984 became the first Black player to win the Stanley Cup. Even more, he became the first Black person inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and currently sits 12th all-time in wins by a goalie.
Jarome Iginla (b. 1977) leads the Calgary Flames in franchise goals, points, and games played. He became the first Black person to win the Art Ross (most points) and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (most goals), both in the same year (2001-02). At the 2002 Olympics, he became the first Black man to win a gold medal in all of Ice Hockey. Iginla was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2021 and is certain to have his number 12 retired by the Flames.
Wayne Simmonds (b. 1988) began his career with the Los Angeles Kings. He then spent much of his career with the Philadelphia Flyers, but recently joined the Toronto Maple Leafs. He may not be the most offensive player, but he brings strong leadership to the dressing room, a type of player the Leafs lack due to remaining compliant with the salary cap. In 2017, Simmonds became the first Black player to participate in the NHL All-Star Game and Skills Competition.
Quinton Byfield’s (b. 2002) hockey career began with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. In 2021, he became the highest selected player in the history of the NHL Entry Draft when he was selected second overall by the Los Angeles Kings. Although having spent most of his career so far in the minors, he could be a top candidate for rookie of the year next season, an award that has never been won by a person of colour. Byfield also has a strong social media presence and is a significant role model for young people of colour who play hockey.
There have been many great Black players, and many more to come. Some other legends include Johnny Oduya, Anson Carter. Paul Bissonnette, PK Subban, Dustin Byfuglien, and Darnell Nurse. Upcoming Black prospects include Jalen Chatfield, Dakota Joshua, Lucas Raymond, K’andre Miller, Keegan Kolesar, and the Winnipeg Jets’ C.J. Suess. Keep your eyes peeled for these youngsters when they break onto the scene soon.