The First Black Hockey Captain In The NHL

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: July 30, 2005

EL CERRITO, CA—Last year the Calgary Flames moved forward into the Stanley Cup Finals. The first Black position player to participate in hockey’s greatest tournament championship. There have been Black Goaltenders in the Stanley Cup before but never wingers, centers, or forwards, Jerome Iginla the now famous Captain of the Flames lead his team against The Tampa Bay Lightning for the oldest trophy in North America, Lord Stanley’s Cup. Inginla and the Flames did not win in the 2003-2004 season but there will be more chances in the future.

In this writers opinion it is the hardest championship in any major American sports. A major league hockey team has to stay healthy and win sixteen playoff games before receiving Lord Stanley’s Cup. Only the National Basketball Association have sixteen playoff games.

The last playing season has been filled with pleasant surprises and new in one of the best playoffs in hockey history both Tampa Bay and Calgary posses crazy fans. Fans that know every player and how that player helps his/ her favorite team.

Jerome Iginla beat up on the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Finals scoring ten goals and giving other teammates seven assist. This has catapulted him into the lead for the Conn Smyth Trophy. This trophy is given to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He continued to impress the American public with his defense and skating style. He is a very shy young man that does not like to be notice but you cannot miss him on the Calgary Flames Saddle Dome Ice many hockey veterans are now saying that Jerome could be the next GREAT ONE, if he stays healthy throughout his career.

Young black men are making history with every passing new year. 2004 is not an acceptation. As most of us know not many African Americans follow the very exciting sport of hockey or even attempts to play this wonderful game on ice. Not many Blacks are interested in this fast game. This game can be played outside in the winter on ice. This game is fast, hard hitting, with not much scoring. This game can be very frustrating at times. But once you have a chance to attend a game in person its like a party you have never seen before. You never forget the action all over the ice. The excitement is so fulfilling even if your favorite team loses. If God had given me a normal body this would have been the sport to play.

Now hockey has changed forever after the 1950’s and 1960’s seasons the world witnessed the first Black player in the National Hockey League Willie O’Ree playing the right wing position with the Boston Bruins from 1958-1966. He stood alone for many years in the hockey world as the only player of color on ice. The only Black man in professional hockey until the talented Black Canadian Goalie for the four time Stanley Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers, Grant Fuhr skated on the ice. Grant had a lot of help with “The Great One”, Wayne Gretzky scoring 90 goals a year. Grant Fuhr opened the door for other Black Canadians and African Americans playing hockey. Now there are over twenty Black players in the league and many are now all stars.

One very special player entered the league in 1996 everybody seemed to be talking about him almost immediately. Some called him the Black Gretzky with speed. Jarome Iginla, This Black Canadian got drafted in the 1st round by the Dallas Stars. Inginla never wore a Stars jersey because within months he was traded to the Calgary Flames for another young star Joe Nieuwendyk who happens to be much bigger. The Stars would later regret trading this black wonder on ice. They would find out later that size is not everything.

Iginla first year with the Calgary Flames he played every single game (82) not many players can do this. Because of the physical demands on their bodies. Inginla would also become the first Black hockey player to win the Rookie of The Year Award. Everybody loved his slashing skating style while heading toward the net to score. He seemed to have eyes in the back of his head because he knew where all of his teammates were on the ice and would give them the puck for many more assist that year.

Iginla has won many other awards in his short hockey career the Art Ross Trophy, which means he was the leading scorer for that year. He was one of the first players to ever receive the leagues new scoring title award the 1999 Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy given to the leading scorer at the end of the regular season from the Montreal Canadians Hockey Club. Another honor in the 2001-02 season was the Lester B. Pearson Award for the Outstanding Player of the Year. Which is voted by the (NHLPA), National Hockey League Players Association, his peers. Inginla stated, he just loves to play the game and does not seek any awards. He is the perfect gentleman and good sportsman in a game that produces many thugs on ice.

This year could be the crowing glory for the very young right winger. At the beginning of the season the Calgary Flames game him a new black, red, and white playing jersey with a big C on the left shoulder. At that moment he became the team captain and the first Black hockey player to ever receive the “C” on any hockey team jersey. This shows the world that anybody can play the game of hockey it just might take many years of practice and many cold days and night outside practicing that hard slap shot but it can be achieved.

Iginla does not see it that way; it was so natural for him. He states that he is a hockey player first, a Calgary Flame second and a team leader third, he lead the Flames into their first Stanley Cup playoffs since 1996. You can’t miss big Jerome Iginla with the red and black C and red number 12 on his hockey jersey.