Black Athletes Focus Of Conference

By Off The AScribe Newswire By Michael Lightstone
Updated: August 26, 2006

CANADA—The contribution black hockey players and other black athletes from the Maritimes have made to the history of organized sports in Canada will be the subject of a three-day conference that began yesterday in Dartmouth.

What delegates hope emerges from the meetings will not only be a greater understanding of black achievements in the context of racism and other forms of denied opportunities, but also a permanent black hockey and sports hall of fame, spokesman Wayne Adams said Thursday.

A venue in metro hasn’t been selected and there is some talk the new hall might include inductees from across Canada, he said.

Mr. Adams said the focus of this weekend’s conference is to discuss findings of a heritage group called the Society of North American Hockey Historians and Researchers. The New York-based organization “discovered that the first form of organized professional hockey emerged out of the Canadian Maritimes” with local black players, he said.

The number of potential inductees into the fledgling hall of fame is large and could get unwieldy if organizers include black athletes from across Canada who excelled in various sports, said Mr. Adams, a former provincial politician whose late grandfather, Gus Adams, played hockey in a league sponsored by a Baptist church.

“Even the number just in hockey is mind-bending,” he said. “I can’t believe the numbers of (black) people who played” the game in this region, Mr. Adams said.

The conference, which wraps up Sunday with an induction ceremony for the new hall of fame, will include researchers, authors, former athletes and at least one Canadian hockey legend — Herb Carnegie, a pioneer in the world of black hockey players.

He was a speedy forward in the ’40s and ’50s but never got a chance to play in the National Hockey League because of racial barriers.

Mr. Carnegie, now in his 80s, is an Ontario resident with strong Nova Scotia ties. His grandson plays for the Halifax Mooseheads and a granddaughter is an RCMP officer in Dartmouth.

Mr. Adams said racism in hockey stretched beyond the NHL’s dressing rooms and front offices. He remembers a teacher told him during his school days in Halifax that he and other black students couldn’t participate in the sport “because your ankles are too weak.”