When you think about how much you enjoy hockey, what, do you suppose, keeps you enthralled? Many people admire the talent and skill of the players, while others appreciate a good fight now and then. For most, however, it's the fast-paced action that keeps their eyes glued to the game.
This year, over 5 million people in the US tuned in to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Would you have tuned in if ten guys politely passed the puck around, only to score when the goalie wasn't paying attention? Of course not! Which is why you can thank The Colored Hockey League (CHL) for evolving the primitive “gentleman's game” of hockey.
Despite whatever you want to think about the sport, hockey was not always a game of speed and skill. Hockey was, simply put, a pastime of men.
The year was 1895 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a year when many white people believed Africans were intolerant to cold and supposedly hadn't the ankles to support themselves on ice skates. Considering many of the African players had fathers and grandfathers who literally walked to Nova Scotia from Colonial America, it's probably safe to assume both myths can be debunked.
Originally, these African-Canadians formed clubs which met for games by formal invitation to one another only. In 1900, they formed the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes for the three areas of Canada these clubs represented: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick.
The CHL was composed of approximately 400 players, primarily Baptist ministers and church laymen, who were comparable to any of the contemporary players in Canada. They defied the stereotypical myths that oppressed them and molded the game of hockey into the stark competitive sport it is today.
You can thank Eddie Martin, who is the grandfather of the slap shot. Without it, Chris Kelly couldn't have scored the game-winning goal against the Washington capitals during the playoff opener this year!
Likewise, goalies everywhere can give applause to the CHL, which first allowed them to cover the puck with their feet.
Unfortunately, these and other game-changing contributions are often conveniently ignored and overlooked. Occasionally, the CHL's ideas were flat out stolen by fellow white hockey players of the time.
It was this kind of mentality which led to the eventual demise of the Colored Hockey League. Due to racism and discrimination against the African-Canadians, largely because of fear they were gaining power through their sport, the CHL was quickly dissolved in 1925.
-Dan "The Wisconsin Hockey Fan"
(Please email Dan with your questions and article ideas)
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