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A Whirlwind History of Diversity in Hockey

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This is a guest post by Katrina (Kat) Muñoz, an intern in the Young Readers Center. Kat is currently pursuing a BS in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Maine – Augusta. This post is informed by research conducted by fellow intern Kamilah Zischang. 

What are your favorite hockey traditions? What do you love most about the sport—is it the swoosh of skates on ice, the high-speed whiz of the puck? Hockey, while an international sport, immediately brings to mind Canada and the Northeastern United States with good reason – the National Hockey League (NHL), which has teams in both the U.S. and Canada, is the premier professional hockey league in the world. The Stanley Cup is the North America’s oldest professional sporting trophy for this whirlwind sport that traces its origins to the end of the 19th century.

Nogales international. (Nogales, Ariz.), 18 Jan. 1933. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Today, there are 31 teams in the NHL roster and the 2015 creation of the  National Women’sHockey League (NWHL) brought women to the professional barn (a common nickname for the ice rink). However, it is clear from this 1927 newspaper ad that women have played hockey for at least the last 100 years! And check out those prices! Two dollars and seventy-five cents in 1927 is roughly equivalent to $41 today, which means getting onto the ice required some upfront expenses – but a decent pair of skates could have you “lighting the lamp” (scoring goals) for years. This 1933 article has tips on how to stay fashionable while hitting the ice – hockey in a skirt presents a whole new set of challenges!

New Britain herald. (New Britain, Conn.), 07 Jan. 1927 and The Coolidge examiner. (Coolidge, Ariz.), 27 Jan. 1933. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.
Arizona sun. (Phoenix, Ariz.), 09 March 1961. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

White male players have always dominated the NHL. However, in addition to addressing gender equality in hockey, the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone initiative aims to create an inclusive environment for people of all races, orientations, and gender identities. A Congressional Resolution backs this initiative and recognizes Willie O’Ree as the first Black player in the NHL. Willie O’Ree was called up from the minor leagues in 1958to play with the Boston Bruins, replacing an injured team member. Other players who broke the NHL color lines include Larry Kwong, a Chinese Canadian who joined the New York Rangers in 1948, and Fred Sasakamoose, an indigenous Cree Canadian that played for the Chicago Black Hawks starting in 1953. While the past 60 years have seen some progress, the NHL is still home to predominately white players. The League has voiced its commitment to empowering BIPOC voices through these efforts. A separate Hockey Diversity Alliance, founded by nine current and former NHL players, pledges to increase grassroots hockey programs, social justice in the sporting arena, and provide scholarships to underrepresented groups.

Ngozi Ukazu at the 2019 National Book Festival

The internet has also been instrumental in bringing hockey to diverse groups. From YouTube tutorials to blogs, anyone with an internet connection can learn about the joys of hockey. Author and artist Ngozi Ukazu joined the Library of Congress at 2019’s National Book Festival to discuss her works, career, and how a first-generation Nigerian-American woman from Texas fell in love with the game of hockey. Her full presentation and Q&A session are available to watch here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of hockey, or diving into the Library’s considerable hockey-related resources, this blog post from Jennifer Harbster is a great place to start. Then get out there and join the celly (celebration) – after all, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky has said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Comments (2)

  1. This is fascinating! Great post

  2. This is fascinating!

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