This is a sports website. You come here looking for some of the best sports reporting and opinions on the Internet. That's because our staff share a furious passion for what we write about. But sometimes, sports needs to take a backseat. August 28th, 1963 was one of those days.
Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of history's most resounding and enduring speeches ever. He did it after marching on Washington D.C., inspiring thousands to join him whether it be via bus or car or shoes. He did in the shadow of a monument built for another avenger for equality, one of history's great ironies. The words he said helped shame a nation (and more importantly a government) into finally doing the right thing. Dr. King spoke with a collective tone of the millions he represented and the picture he painted at the end of that speech lives stronger with each generation.
But again, this is a sports website. More pointedly a hockey website. You may not see a connection to Dr. King and the NHL, but there is one. A thin one, but a growing one. One that should be highlighted on a day this special.
With the fourth overall pick in the NHL Draft this year, the Nashville Predators took defenseman Seth Jones. A eighteen-year old Texan with a NBA veteran father and mother who did everything she could to keep him in hockey after her marriage failed. Seth Jones became the highest selected black player in NHL history. But more history was waiting to be made. Three picks later, defenseman Darnell Nurse was taken by the Edmonton Oilers.
Two black hockey players drafted in the top ten. Three years ago, that was unthinkable. But a wave of diversity is hitting the NHL. The reigning Norris Trophy winner is black and has a talented, younger brother in the Boston Bruins system. Emerson Etem is primed for a breakout year in Anaheim and Evander Kane is getting set to be a nationally recognized name. These guys are making impacts and that's not even mentioning established players like Dustin Byfuglien (pictured), Ray Emery, and Wayne Simmons.
Yes, there's only twenty-seven black players in the NHL. That's not great, but that number is on the rise. Not only that, but a culture shift is happening that's making hockey a real possibility for black kids. True, true . . . this is a micro-shift and not a national takeover. There is no over-analyzing going on here. Ten years ago, African-American hockey players (meaning non-Canadians) were nearly nil. Now two are being taken in the first ten picks.
The NHL suffers from a horrible lack of diversity (second only to NASCAR). Guys like Anson Carter and Mike Grier looked painfully obvious on the ice in the early 2000s. That's changing and it's a trend that's hopefully not going to stop. Seth Jones puts it best when he said during the Draft, "I do know that if I can help set an example for any kids or help them get started in the game, I’d like to do that. I don’t mind trying to be a role model."
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