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The Black Hockey History Tour Keeps On Rolling

The NHL's Black Hockey History Tour bus will hit 28 cities this year, educating fans on the history of Black hockey players on and off the ice.
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Have you wanted to learn more about the Colored Hockey League? The contributions of Black women to both the Canadian and American Olympic hockey programs? The Black designers who’ve helped create jerseys for teams in pro leagues?

Keep an eye out for the Black Hockey History Tour.

For the third year, the NHL’s mobile museum exhibit is up and running, making stops in 28 NHL markets this season.

The bus is by far one of the more complete exhibits showcasing many elements of Black hockey history.

The tour spans virtually every era of hockey, with videos and equipment and memorabilia honoring the Colored Hockey League, to elements of the bus honoring players such as Angela James, Grant Fuhr, Sarah and Darnell Nurse, Jarome Iginla, and Blake Bolden.

Kwame Damon Mason, the producer of the film Soul On Ice and the host of the Soul On Ice podcast, is the curator. Mason has been going from city to city with the bus and helping educate many on elements of hockey history that some may not have known.

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The credit for the idea of the tour goes to the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, Kim Davis, who is the league's executive vice president of social impact.

“This was the brainchild of Kim Davis, she had this idea because she had a relationship with American Legacy, she knew that they were a part of these mobile tours and they had done that for themselves," Mason said. "She thought it would be a great way to do that with hockey. So when she gave me that call, here's this idea, we want to take this bus and turn it into this Black hockey history museum, she was like 'let's think about it'”.

For Mason, giving the tour a similar theme to his groundbreaking movie made perfect sense to showcase Black hockey culture.

“I was like, I got the perfect way to curate it. Which is based on Soul On Ice: Past, Present, Future, make it a bus that covers our past, present, and our future”. 

Matt Larkin/The Hockey News

Matt Larkin/The Hockey News

In Toronto, Maple Leafs alumni Val James and Mark Fraser stopped by. In Edmonton, Oilers alumni Georges Laraque, Sean Brown, and Joaquin Gage spent time checking out Dean Barnes’ card collection, which is one of the most complete displays of every black player to skate in the league.

“I think the beauty about that is we are giving these guys their flowers while they can still smell them," Mason said. "For them, for cities that alumni are in. We always go over and above to bring them and come by and check out the truck.”

Letting various alumni know that fans still care about their careers was important to Mason, and he’s been thrilled by their receptions when seeing how there’s been an effort to honor their legacies.

“Historically speaking, a lot of past players of color haven’t really been embraced by hockey," Mason said. "Once their careers were done, they were just done. I think it’s beautiful to see the smiles on their faces and know that the National Hockey League is reaching back out to them and saying, hey man we want to celebrate you. We’ve got maybe your hockey card in here, your jersey in here, we got your picture in here. Come down and let people see you, you may think people don’t recognize you but they do”.

While the players and their contributions make up the bulk of the truck, those who’ve made an impact off of the ice have not been left out of it. The “Black Rosie” Metropolitan Riveters jersey designed is on display, as is part of the truck to pay homage to Neal Henderson who co-founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club in the Washington, D.C. area.

"For us to grow the game, it's not just about the players on the ice, it's going to take storytellers, writers, designers, writers, collectors, all of those people put together is going to help this game become something even more special than it already is," Mason said. 

The reception to the truck at many levels has been amazing, and taking the truck to other parts of the world is something that for Mason would be a great next step.

“That would be a dream come true. I think that is the next evolution. How do we get this global? How do we expand on this? The great thing is this year we’re going to 28 NHL cities. Not everyone is going to be able to come on this bus so to be able to do it again next year is something special."

For the short term, a goal to reach every NHL city is something that Mason would love to accomplish. 

“I’m hoping next year we’ll hit all 32 teams, and you make sure as many people as possible get to come in and be a part of this bus," Mason said. 

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