Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Little Known Black History Fact: The "Colored" Hockey League

The Colored Hockey League of Maritimes in Nova Scotia was formed in 1894 across the provinces of Canada. This was 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. The men were typically natives from the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island areas. The league was especially surprising to the stereotypical beliefs of whites that blacks couldn’t endure cold climates or that we didn’t have ankles strong enough to ice skate.
Before the Colored Hockey League, the white leagues played in a primitive, gentle manner. The CHL transformed the game into a fast-paced competition. It was formed by Baptist Ministers and Church Administrators who were the sons and grandsons of runaway slaves. 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 player Eddie Martin was also said to have been the first to use the slap shot.
Unfortunately, the contributions of the CHL were ignored and copied by white leagues, who took credit for many of the game-changing elements. The league would eventually dissolve among racism and discrimination for a league and race that had grown in power through sport. There is little reference to the Colored Hockey League in any Canadian hockey archives.

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