The general manager of the San Jose Sharks, Mike Grier, 47, made the history books by becoming the hockey team’s first Black general manager after spending almost two decades in the league.
Grier is not the first Black player to ever have graced the league, which is made up of mostly of White people. The few people of color in the league have stood on the back of the first Black player to break the ceiling of the ice hockey rink.
Willie O’Ree was the first ace player to enter the league, according to the Oakland Post.
Here it is 2022, and with the hope of many new inclusive ideologies, we might be moving pass those old hatreds from the days when racism and discrimination predominated, especially in sports. We remember when guys like Jackie Robinson, a Black man, had to press their way through the hate just to play the baseball game they loved.
In a league where Blacks and people of color are underrepresented and inclusivity is nearly obsolete, a Black man has persevered and made it to a prominent position in the NHL. Historically, professional hockey has held its place with its traditional lack of representation of people of color, said the June 22-28 Oakland Post.
Born on Oct.15, 1935, it took Willie O’Ree over 20-plus years to become the first Black NHL player, for the Boston Bruins. He played two games for the Bruins before dropping out in the 1957-58 season. He returned in 1960-61 season when he scored four goals and 10 assist for 14 points in 43 games, said the article.
In 1961 O’Ree also became the first Black player to score a goal in the NHL, resulting in a 3-2 win over the Canadians. O’Ree was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 and President Joe Biden recently signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act, which is the highest honor for his contribution to hockey. Nevertheless, the century-plus old exclusive sport of ice hockey still has a ways to go.
O’Ree endured years of ridicule from players and fans. However, what makes Grier’s situation so profound is that there were no people of color to ever make it to the upper management levels — not until Grier.
Grier played hockey from 1996-2009, including three years with the Sharks as a forward where he finished with 35 goals in a 221-game span with 43 assists. He served as an operations adviser for the New York Rangers and a coach for the New Jersey Devils.
The Sharks GM Doug Wilson stepped down and Head Coach Bob Boughner was fired after a losing season, creating the opportunity for the positions to be filled. Hence the Sharks conquered two milestones in one hire. They made history and filled their top leadership position with the first Black general manager, and also giving Grier the power to be the one to find and hire the next head coach.
HOCKEY UPDATE: The 2022 Stanly Cup winners were the Colorado Avalanche who beat the previous three-time champion Tampa Bay Lighting team in a battle that ended in a 4 to 2 series victory for the Avalanche.