Seth Jones remembers the toughest part of wanting to play hockey as a child. “Convincing my dad,” he said. “He probably wasn’t too happy at the time.” Hockey represented a culture shock for Jones’ father, Popeye. He was a black NBA player who grew up far from ice rinks in northwest Tennessee. He expected his kids to play basketball. Seth and his two brothers were persistent. With the backing of their mother, they soon had skates and early-morning ice times and had joined a growing number of minority youths who’ve opted to give hockey a whirl. “It’s definitely a white-dominated sport,” Seth Jones said. “That’s not a secret at all. But hopefully with some more black players starting to play we can convince or sway some young African-American kids to start playing hockey.” The burgeoning diversity of the NHL is on display as the league heads toward the draft. Eight minorities attended the scouting combine this month. Nine could hear their names called at the selection show on Sunday, led by Jones. He is expected to be picked in the top two, which would make him the highest-drafted black player ever. “Every game changes,” said Darnell Nurse, the second-rated North American defenseman behind Jones. “The colors change. You saw it with basketball years and years ago. More black players came into the league. Baseball with Jackie Robinson. But it’s not at that point in hockey. “There’s guys already in the league, but this really shows that colored players, minorities have taken an interest in this game. It’s showing in the draft. With that said, it’s not just black players. There’s going to be Asians and brown people that jump into this, too. That’s the best part of sports. You get into the room with guys, and they become family no matter what color they are.” The rise in minority participation has special meaning for Willie O’Ree. He became the NHL’s first black player in 1958 and is the ambassador for the league’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.
Diversity increasing, minorities shifting NHL demographics
Buffalo News | Jun 27