It was an important moment, a breakthrough moment, in hockey history.
It was however a fleeting and not well-known moment. Because of its “milestone” nature, it deserves more recognition.
In 1970 for the first time in Canadian university hockey, the forward line were all black.
Bob Dawson was one of those three players on the St Mary’s University team in Halifax Nova Scotia
Bob Dawson is a sports Writer, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant, and a Black Hockey historian
The historic forward line consisted of Dawson, normally a defenceman, along with forwards Percy Paris, and Darrell Maxwell.
Not only was that an historic moment, but before that Dawson was himself the first black player in Atlantic university hockey.
Dawson and the others learned to skate and play on the frozen ponds in winter, and Dawson went on through minor hockey on up.
When St Mary’s decided to re-start a hockey programme, Dawson made the team.
He says racism hadn’t really been a major factor while playing, but once at the university level, there were quite a few more taunts and names from the crowd and opposing players. He said referees also tended to ignore the other team fouls against him. He says had he let it get to him and become the victim he couldn’t have continued.
Still, he says his hockey playing experience at the time was largely positive with the team and the university fully supportive.
In this Black History Month he says it’s important as it highlights the contributions of blacks to Canadian society, but suggests black history is a twelve month thing, and those contributions should be considered part of the country’s whole history.
He still plays hockey, in fact on two teams, and modestly says he must still have some skills as team members have said to him they’re glad he’s playing with them and not against them!
It should be noted that while this was a milestone in Canadian university hockey, another milestone occurred some decades earlier in Canada. The only previous such event was with the trio of Vincent “Manny” MacIntyre and the brothers Ossie and Herb Carnegie who formed an all-black line with the Porcupine Mines Senior Hockey League. before they moved to play in France and later in Canada as the first professional all-black line in the Quebec Senior hockey league in the 1948-49 season.