In today’s Forum we had a story on Fargo Force defenseman Justin Wade (Notre Dame) and how he’s an example of the growing number of black players in the USHL.
Wade, 17, is one of ten black players to play in the league at some point this season. He along with Force head coach John Marks said issues such as geography and income play a large role in why there are not more black players involved with the game.
Then Marks and Force chief scout Jesse Davis were also asked if having a visible black figure from the United States would grow the game.
“Being that I grew up in Detroit where I played, I probably played with and against more black hockey players than most in other places,” Davis said. “I didn’t see the growth until now where I see kids like (NTDP defenseman) Seth Jones and the kids coming out of California.”
Jones, who is eligible for the NHL Draft next season, is being projected as a Top 3 pick in many circles. Should Jones be taken in the Top 3, it’d be the highest an American-born black player has ever been selected in the NHL Draft. New York Islanders forward and former Minnesota star, Kyle Okposo, currently holds the honor having been taken seventh in 2006.
The growth has already made its way to Canada with Marks and Davis both pointing out the NHL has had stars such as Grant Fuhr and current star Jarome Iginla, who are both black.
In Canada the trend continues with players such as Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban, whose parents are Jamaican, emerging into a league star. Subban’s younger brother, Jordan, was part of last season’s historic OHL Draft that had four black players selected in the first round.
But how can Canada’s successful yet growing model be used in the United States?
“If you had a black kid that was (NHL star Sidney) Crosby, from wherever in the United States I think it’d be a big impact,” Marks said. “I think it would and it’d be a great impact for sure. With Tiger Woods, the thing he did was start these foundations so that those who couldn’t afford it are getting the opportunities. You are starting to see a couple other young kids who are product of the First Tee Foundation come up now.”
Davis made a point using the Olympics. He said most European nations such as Finland, Russia and Sweden have their country’s best athletes on the ice when it comes to hockey.
Yet in America, he said the nation doesn’t have its best athletes on the ice but if Miami Heat star LeBron James could skate, Davis said, he would be the best player in the NHL.
Davis then followed by saying there are good athletes out there but there are many who just can’t afford it.
As was written in the print story, it all comes back to money. Davis and Marks each went back to how if hockey was more affordable, we would see an influx of black players in the game.
“There are some midget teams where ice time alone is $10,000 to $15,000 throughout the year,” Davis said. “That’s not including equipment, tournament fees or parents traveling with the team to play in tournaments.”
Marks echoed Davis’ sentiments.
“I hate to put it this way, but until they find a way to subsidize hockey for youths in the south, you’ll see a predominantly white league,” said Marks, who coached most of his career in the ECHL, which has had a number of southern markets. “It is expensive and in the southern part of our United States having been down in the Carolinas, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, it is baseball, football and basketball.”