In honor of Black History Month, it’s important to celebrate and embrace the everchanging growth and expansion of the game of hockey. From the vast, rugged lands of Canada, to the desert of Arizona, to the beaches of Florida, and the bustling streets of New York, ice hockey is always evolving and expanding where its players come from.
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A game traditionally played by white players, there has been no shortage of impactful and influential black players that have laced up their skates and represented their team, their city, and their heritage. These five players listed have all represented not only themselves and their teammates in an exemplary fashion, but have expressed that hockey can be for everyone.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Chris Stewart is of Jamaican and Irish background. The forward wore number 25 during his four seasons with the Blues where he scored 63 goals and 115 points through 211 games. He was selected 18th overall with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and played in 166 games with the franchise before he was traded to the Blues in Feb 2011. The team acquired Stewart, defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and a 2011 2nd round pick in exchange for Erik Johnson, Jay McClement, and the Blues’ 2011 first-round pick. After 11 seasons at the NHL level, he announced his retirement via Twitter. During his time in the NHL, he suited up for seven different franchises, none longer than the time in St. Louis. Stewart played in 668 NHL games scoring 160 goals and 322 points.
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Today, Stewart currently works with the Hockey Diversity Alliance to address racism in hockey. In addition to his work with the Alliance, he also works as a player development coach for the Philadelphia Flyers organization.
Bryce Salvador is of African and Brazilian descent on his father’s side and Ukrainian on his mothers’. He was drafted 138th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 1994 NHL Entry Draft and later signed with St. Louis as a free agent on December 16, 1996. He appeared in 447 games with the Blues scoring 16 goals and 63 points throughout seven seasons. Along with fellow teammate, Jamal Mayers, the two created a program in St. Louis that recognized kids who performed acts of kindness and generosity.
The Brandon, Manitoba native played for only two teams in the NHL, the Blues, and the New Jersey Devils. Before announcing his retirement in 2014, Salvador captained the New Jersey Devils team over his last three seasons. He finished his career after appearing in 786 career games, scoring 24 goals and 110 total points. Though he was not a point-producing style of defenseman, his leadership, dedication, and strong and steady defensive style of play helped his teams reach the playoffs in eight of 13 seasons in the NHL. Since 2017, he has provided analysis for the New Jersey Devils’ home television games. He also owns a company called X Hockey Products with training camps and various training aids to help grow the game of hockey.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Ryan Reaves is a bi-racial forward for the New York Rangers. Drafted by the Blues 156th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Reaves is known more for dropping the gloves and playing a physical style of hockey, rather than a skillful game that boasts a high-scoring ability at the NHL level. However, that did not stop the tough, bruising winger from scoring the occasional goal or two for his team.
To date, Reaves has played in 796 NHL games over 13 seasons with five different teams: the Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, and Minnesota Wild. His seven seasons in St. Louis have been the longest tenure of his career. He may do his fair share of fighting on the ice, but off it, Reaves never shies away from the opportunity to discuss race and social justice and fighting to bring equality in the NHL.
Mayers is a Barbadian or Bajan Canadian, a Canadian citizen of Barbadian descent. He was drafted in the fourth round, 89th overall by the St. Louis Blues during the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, and appeared in 595 games over 10 seasons with the organization. His career moved from St. Louis to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, and eventually the Chicago Blackhawks. Before hanging up his skates after 14 seasons, Mayers was finally able to win a Stanley Cup at long last. The 2013 champion hung up his skates after playing 915 games in the NHL scoring 90 goals and 219 total points.
Related: Toronto Maple Leafs History of Black Hockey Players
The right-winger played a strong physical game thanks to his 222 pounds and 6-foot-1 frame that allowed him to play and contribute to the penalty kill. Mayers was an active member of the NHL Players Association serving as a Players Representative for the Blues, Sharks, and Blackhawks. Today, he serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Chicago and is a Community Liaison for the Blackhawks helping to promote and grow the game of hockey in Chicago.
Born of one African-Canadian parent and one Caucasian parent, Grant Fuhr was named as one of the top 100 Greatest NHL players in history. The netminder set several firsts for black hockey players: the first to win the Stanley Cup and the first to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Among NHL goaltenders, Joseph ranks 12th overall with 868 and 403 wins. He is a two-time NHL All-Star and a four-time Stanley Cup winner. He won the Vezina Trophy for the best goaltender in the NHL during the 1987-1988 season, and the William M. Jennings Trophy during the 1993-94 season.
July 14, 1995, Fuhr signed with the Blues and appeared in 79 games during the 1995-96 season, of which he played 76 consecutively. Fuhr’s career prematurely ended after Maple Leafs forward Nick Kypreos collided with him in the crease while playing in the first round of the playoffs. The collision ultimately tore multiple ligaments in his knee and he was never able to fully recover. Though he attempted to recover his knee and return to the player he once was, Fuhr was eventually traded to the Calgary Flames, serving more as a mentor to young goaltenders, including Fred Brathwaite.
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Fuhr ended his 19-year career in the NHL with a record of 493-295-114.
Representation in Hockey Matters
The game of hockey is constantly growing, evolving, and expanding. It is important for the sport to consistently push the envelope and show the world that the game can be for everyone. To celebrate the growing list of achievements that players of color have left on this game. These five players are just a small number of individuals who have left their mark on the game for the next wave of individuals to raise the bar. These individuals have represented more than just the city of St. Louis, but have represented their heritage, and helped continue to pave the roadway for groups of players to model their game after for decades to come.