Good Monday Morning Obots!
This week we’ll take a look at the history of African-Americans and African-Canadians in the sport of Hockey. Today we start by looking to our neighbors of the north and discover the Colored Hockey League.
The Colored Hockey League of Maritimes in Nova Scotia was formed in 1894 across the provinces of Canada 22 years before the National Hockey League. The first all-black ice hockey league held over a dozen teams and employed over 400 African-Canadian players.
Comprised of the sons and grandsons of runaway American slaves, the league helped pioneer the sport of ice hockey changing this winter game from the primitive “gentleman’s past-time” of the nineteenth century to the modern fast moving game of today. In an era when many believed blacks could not endure cold, possessed ankles too weak to effectively skate, and lacked the intelligence for organized sport, these men defied the defined myths.
The league consisted of teams such as the Dartmouth Jubilees, the Halifax Eurekas, the Truro Sheiks and the AfricVille Brown Bombers. The Colored Hockey League would use the teachings of Booker T. Washington, the Bible and speech resources from the Underground Railroad in their gamebooks and strategies.
Many hockey firsts were said to have come from the Colored Hockey League. For instance, the practice of allowing the goalie to use their feet to cover a puck was said to have come from the Colored League in 1900. League games were also said to have been the setting for the first time a player – Eddie Martin – used the slapshot. Unfortunately, the contributions of the CHL were ignored and copied by white leagues, who took credit for many of the game-changing elements.
The CHL would eventually dissolve due to racism and discrimination against the league, amid fears that blacks that had grown in power through sport. There is little reference to the Colored Hockey League in any Canadian hockey archives.
Below is an ESPN segment on the book “Black Ice”, which chronicles the Colored Hockey League circa 1895-1925: