San Jose Sharks History of Black Hockey Players

In honor of black history month, I thought it would be fun to highlight the black players who have suited up for the San Jose Sharks throughout their history. While the number of black players who have suited up in teal may not be large, there are certainly some who were impactful. From their inception, the Sharks have featured black players in their lineup, so let’s take a look at who they were and what kind of impact they had.

Dale Craigwell (1991-94)

Dale Craigwell was the 10th ever draft pick by the Sharks, 199th overall in 1991. The Toronto, Ontario native had just completed a strong season for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, where he nearly reached two points per game. In his draft-minus-one season, he won the Memorial Cup with the Generals. In his draft season, he scored three points in seven games en route to a gold medal for Canada at the under 20 World Junior Championship.

Dale Craigwell San Jose Sharks
Dale Craigwell, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

During the Sharks’ inaugural season, Craigwell split time between the NHL and the Kansas City Blades, who played in the International Hockey League (IHL). His first professional season was successful, as he scored a half-point per game in 32 games with the Sharks and over that for the Blades en route to the IHL Turner Cup. After those first 32 games, Craigwell would only play 65 more games in the NHL, all with the Sharks over the next two seasons.

Related: Sharks’ 2021-22 Midseason Prospects Report

Craigwell finished his career between the IHL, Germany’s top league, the DEL, and the British top league, the BISL, where he won a championship in 2000-01, his final professional season. While he may not have had the high point totals of some of the players on this list, he should be remembered as the first black player for the Sharks and breaking the color barrier for the team. Unfortunately for him, his first NHL season was his best.

Mike McHugh (1991-92)

Mike McHugh had a pretty minor role for the Sharks. He was not drafted by any NHL team and worked his way up through the NCAA, IHL, and AHL. During the Sharks’ inaugural season, he suited up for eight games, registering a single goal. He never again made it into an NHL game after that season, and his professional career ended in 1998 as the captain of the AHL Hershey Bears. He won the Calder Cup in 1997, winning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for the AHL playoffs most valuable player.

Mike Grier (2006-09)

Mike Grier was probably one of the most memorable black players to suit up for the Sharks, primarily because he played for the team when they were really good. They made the playoffs every year he was in San Jose and made it to the conference semifinals in three of the four seasons. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and signed with the Sharks after nine successful NHL seasons.

Mike Grier, San Jose Sharks
Mike Grier, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Don Smith/Getty Images)

While Grier wasn’t a big point-getter, he never scored more than 33 points while with the Sharks, but he was a good even-strength defensive player. He was physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and he doled out 119 and 147 hits in his final two seasons with team teal. He was definitely the kind of player who made the Sharks difficult to play against.

Derek Joslin (2008-11)

Derek Joslin was a fifth-round pick for the Sharks in 2005. He scored at a pretty high rate for the Ottawa 67’s in the OHL and put up nearly a half-point per game for the Worcester Sharks of the AHL. There was a lot of hope for Joslin that he could be a point-getting defenseman in the NHL. There were always concerns about his defensive game, but he seemed to progress as a professional.

San Jose Sharks’ Defender Derek Joslin. Even strength & power play RAPM per 60 courtesy of Evolving Hockey.

Unfortunately, in his 70 NHL games between 2008-11, he struggled mightily. His expected goals per 60 minutes (xGA/60) and expected Corsi against per 60 minutes (xCA/60) were both nearly one standard deviation below the mean of his NHL peers, according to Evolving Hockey. Similarly, the offensive creativity that was there at lower levels just wasn’t there in an appreciable amount to make up for his defensive misgivings.

Joslin is still playing hockey in 2022. After leaving the NHL after the 2012-13 season, he played one season in the SHL for AIK, then five seasons in the DEL. Finally, for the past three seasons, he has been playing in Austria. Though he didn’t find NHL success, he was able to repeat as DEL champion in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with EHC Munchen.

Jamal Mayers (2010-11)

Jamal Mayers only played one season for the San Jose Sharks, which was in 2010-11. The team was hoping to add a strong defensive forward for a long playoff run. They did have a long playoff run, all the way to the Conference Final, where they lost in five games to the Vancouver Canucks.

Mayers did eventually get his name on the Cup, which occurred in the very next season. While he was a member of the 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks that won the Cup, Mayers didn’t play a significant role in the playoffs. He suited up in just three games, but one is enough to get your name on the Cup. He also played in 81 regular-season games, which would have been enough to get his name on there anyway. Even though he didn’t play more than one season, he made valuable contributions and helped the Sharks get as close to the Cup as they had ever gotten up to that point.

Joel Ward (2015-18)

Joel Ward was never drafted by an NHL team. He was a good but not amazing player in the OHL for the Owen Sound Platers. After graduating from the OHL with no NHL contract, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island, where his game continued to grow. In his senior season, he scored 44 points in 28 games, and he began to garner the attention of NHL teams.

Joel Ward, San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After breaking into the NHL in 2006 with the Minnesota Wild, Ward played for the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals before finishing his career with the Sharks. His first season with the Sharks was the most memorable season in the history of the team. Even though they finished third in the Pacific Division, the Sharks won the Western Conference and appeared in their only Stanley Cup Final in team history. Though he wasn’t the most offensively-minded player on this list, Ward can be remembered as the quintessential black Sharks player. 

San Jose Sharks’ Forward Joel Ward EV & PP RAPM per 60 courtesy of Evolving Hockey

Ward is the only member of this list to play with the Sharks in the Cup Final, and he was one of the most important pieces. His defensive game was outstanding, tilting the ice in the team’s favor when he was out there. For such a stout defensive player, he contributed over a half-point per game in 24 playoff games that season, including seven goals. Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn’t repeat their success in his final two seasons with the team, and Ward retired a Shark at the conclusion of the 2018 season.

Evander Kane (2017-21)

For sure, the most controversial figure on this list, Evander Kane came to the Sharks via trade during the 2017-18 season. His third NHL franchise gave him another chance after documented issues with teammates and off the ice when he played for the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres. 

Evander Kane - Sharks
Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks, Oct. 9, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since coming to the Sharks, controversy has followed Kane, and the relationship came to an unceremonious end when the Sharks terminated his contract on Jan. 8, 2022. The NHLPA is challenging this action, and so the saga in San Jose is not over, but it is clear that Kane won’t suit up for the Sharks again.

On the ice, Kane was an effective forward for the Sharks, leading the team during the 2020-21 season with 49 points in 56 games. This was during one of the worst seasons for the team, so his point totals were even more impressive. Before his peak performance in his final season, he was a consistent 60-ish point player who was physically imposing and tough to play against.

The Sharks have had six black players in their 30-year history. Some of them were minor contributors like Joslin, McHugh, and Craigwell, while others like Mayers, Ward, and Kane were more significant contributors. Hopefully with increased diversity in the sport, there will be many more than six black players over the next 30 years.