By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Carter Aims To Own Team, Market Game To Diverse Fans
COLUMBUS, Oh. — Anson Carter’s aspirations in hockey go beyond winning the Stanley Cup.
“My goal, among my many business ventures, is to become an owner of a hockey team,” the Blue Jackets right winger said.
Voicing such a dream represents progress in hockey’s integration, but the sport is still far less diversified than other major sports.
“I want to see hockey up there with the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NFL,” said Carter, one of 15 black players in the NHL. “Those are the model sports leagues. In order to reach that level, we have to have a diverse fan base — more diverse than we have now.
“As a sport, we have to be more aggressive in going down avenues we traditionally haven’t gone down before. We have to break down barriers. Other sports have diverse fan bases. You can’t have one demographic.”
All 30 NHL teams have white general managers, and the only minority coaches are Ted Nolan, a native American, head coach of the New York Islanders, and Phoenix goaltending coach Grant Fuhr, the first black inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Of the league’s 600-plus players, 28 are minorities.
“Now there’s been a dramatic increase in the number of black players, and they’re in a variety of roles,” Carter said. “They’re not just tough guys. It’s important that parents and young blacks see that.”
Carter, a Toronto native, broke into the NHL with the Washington Capitals in 1996, one year after the league created the NHL Diversity Task Force — a program now known as NHL Diversity and run in partnership with the NHL Players Association.
The league boasts that NHL Diversity has exposed more than 40,000 boys and girls to hockey since its inception.
“The NHL has to feed off that and grow off that,” said Fuhr, who won five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. “It all starts with the kids. We’re just the benefactors of what goes on.”
Kenneth Martin, NHL director of community and diversity programming, said there is an increasing number of minority youth players on amateur championship teams.
Phoenix right winger Georges Laraque, who has served on the diversity committee and done public relations work at hockey’s grass-roots level, is encouraged that “the sport is more open and more known to everyone.”
“There’s always going to be racism because there are not a lot of us, but it used to be a lot worse,” said Laraque, a Montreal native. “I dealt with it all of the time, constantly. People threw bananas at me on the ice”.
“I used that as motivation to get to the NHL and shut everyone down. I talk to (kids) about how hard it is to grow up. I know if they have perseverance, then one day they could be in the same position I’m in.”
Martin said the NHL is now using edgier, hipper marketing instead of its traditional selling of the game to its core audience. Carter agrees that more is needed in selling the game.
“You’re not seeing hockey marketed to black magazines such as Ebony, Jet, Vibe and The Source,” Carter said. “You see basketball, football and baseball players in there. I’d like to see more hockey players in there.
“It’s one thing to have a black hockey player in The Hockey News. It means more with other blacks if the blacks are marketed at a grass-roots level. That is really the heart of the game, and where it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, as long as you’re great.”