Photo by Kayano Waite

Damon Kwame Mason, director of Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future, at the Oshawa

While hockey is seen by many as Canada’s sport, it still lacks diversity.

There are currently 30 black hockey players in the NHL, only five percent of the league.

Malik Johnson is one of few black players on the UOIT Ridgeback men’s hockey team. The first year Criminology and Legal Studies student plays left wing for the Ridgebacks.

Growing up in Montreal, he shared a love for hockey with his father and brother, yet he and his family are Edmonton Oilers fans.

 Photo by Kayano Waite Malik Johnson, left wing for the UOIT Ridgebacks men's hockey team.

Photo by Kayano Waite

Malik Johnson, left wing for the UOIT Ridgebacks men’s hockey team.

 

He says he looked up to black hockey players such as Georges Laraque and Mike Grier. “My dad would give us those jerseys to make us not feel like an outsider in hockey,” says Johnson.

He played in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. During his younger years though, He says he faced discrimination.

“There would come to a lot of situations where there’s racial remarks,” said Johnson. “But I just fought through it and just put it aside.”

Comments like this are not unheard of for black hockey players, especially in the NHL.

Soul on Ice: Past, Present & Future is a documentary focused on the role of black Canadians in the NHL. Oshawa Public Library hosted a free showing of Soul on Ice in late February.

The film is about the history of black Canadians and their influence on the game of hockey. Starting with the history of black Nova Scotians, to the startup of the NHL, to modern day initiatives such as Hockey is for Everyone, an initiative focused on inclusivity in the game.

Damon Kwame Mason is the director of Soul on Ice. He was born in Toronto, and has been active in the entertainment industry since 1996, working between Ontario and Alberta, where he was an announcer for FLOW 93.5 and KISS 92.5.

A lifelong fan of hockey, Mason got into contact with several professional hockey players in Edmonton during his time in Alberta. He questioned the lack of black hockey players in the league and wanted to look more into the lack of diversity.

Mason felt it was his duty to tell this story, feeling the history behind the game needed to be preserved.

“I took a leap of faith, sold my condo and invested all my money and time into this, and well, here we are.”

It took more than three years to complete, yet Mason feels there are still many stories revolving around hockey, such as women’s history with the game.

Mason often went to Bernice Carnegie for support during production. She has a deep connection to hockey.

She is the co-founder and executive director of the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation, named after her father Herb.

Herb Carnegie was one of many players interviewed for the film. He was born in 1919 in Toronto. Though never a member of the NHL, Carnegie made a name for himself as a member of the Black Aces, the first all-black line in hockey at the time.

After retiring from hockey in 1954, Herb created the Future Aces Hockey School in 1955, the first hockey school in Canada, according to his daughter.

His last recorded interview was for this film. He died at the age of 92, nine days after being interviewed.

“I’ve seen the film several times, and every time I break down,” says Bernice.

She says while hockey is still seen a white man’s game, she believes the league is making inroads to be inclusive.

And Bernice looks at Mason’s work ethic to produce his film as an example for younger people to achieve their goals.

“If you have the heart and soul to want to do something,” she says. “You should carry it as far as you possibly can.”

Bernice says finding financial or personal support may be difficult but having a passion for the sport is key to success.

“That was the spirit my father had, that he never gave up on anything in his life, and as a result accomplished so much.”

 Photo by Kayano Waite Malik Johnson practicing in the Campus Ice Centre.

Photo by Kayano Waite

Malik Johnson practicing in the Campus Ice Centre.

 

Johnson says the problems he has had with his race have decreased with age and time. Now, he is focused on the game itself and growing with the Ridgebacks.

“With us evolving and the culture of our team, I would like to look at myself as one of these leaders for our team,” Johnson says. “In the next couple of years I’d hopefully like to bring this team to a championship.”

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Kayano is a second-year Broadcast Journalism student at DC. His focus lies in the arts, focusing primarily in film and television. He also hosts a show "Black Camera" on Riot Radio. Kayano hopes to be a television writer.

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