This is something I have been thinking about writing for a month, so I just said might as well. This was partially inspired by Jack Sommers' posts about the Negro Leagues and nominating black baseball players in the all-time position player threads. To put another spin on things, here is a few black NHLers that have been instrumental in their game. As well as a couple of females in baseball. You all know I like hockey.
Willie O'ree broke the NHL's color barrier on January 18, 1958 against the Montreal Canadiens. For context, the NHL still had a 6 team league and the Boston Red Sox's first black player was Pumpsie Green a year later in 1959. Larry Kwong was the first non white player in NHL history, being from Asian descent with his debut in 1948. Unlike Oree, who played parts of 2 seasons, Kwong only played in one game with the New York Rangers. Willie O'ree's number was retired by the Boston Bruins last month (Jan. 2022). He was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 2018...I had to double check to make sure I got the year right on that one.
After O'ree it would not be until 1974 that another black player suited up the the NHL and the Washington Capitals. Mike Marson would play parts of 5 seasons for the Caps and LA Kings.
First black Hockey Hall of Famer and first to win the Stanley Cup, goaltender Grant Fuhr.
Fuhr played for the Edmonton Oilers dynasty in the 1980's, along with Gretzky, Mark Messier and Paul Coffey. Of Hall of Fame Goaltenders, his career goals against average 3.38 ranks second worst and his save percentage of .887 is also second worse. Only one other goaltender, New York Islanders Billy Smith played predominantly in the 1980's. What about Patrick Roy? No. By the time of Roy's rookie season Fuhr had already been an established NHL goalie for 5 seasons. Grant Fuhr was the best goaltender in his era, the high scoring offenses of the 1980's, which led to the dead puck era and the neutral zone traps of the 1990's. In '87-'88, he played for Canada in the Canada Cup and won his only Vezina Trophy (goalie of the year) and fnished second in the Hart Memorial Trophy (League MVP) Fuhr won the Stanely Cup 4 times and was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Another Hall of Famer, and Shane Doan contemporary, Jarome Iginla.
Shane Doan was drafted in the first round and with the 7th selection by the original Winnipeg Jets (Arizona Coyotes), Iginla would be drafted by the Dallas Stars 4 picks later at 11th overall. Their careers had some parallels with Iginla being the better offensively and more skilled. Iginla won the 2 Maurice Richard Trophies (given to the player that scores the most goals) twice and finished runner up in the league MVP two times as well. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2020 and is 16th alltime in goals scored and 36th in points. In the '03-'04 season he helped the Calgary Flames to the SC Finals, before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 7 games. He had 13 goals and 22 points in 26 games during that playoff year. One of my alltime favorite non-Coyotes players.
In January 2022, she was named as the first female manager in the minor leagues with the A-ball Tampa Tarpons. She began her career in 2012 as a temporary strength and conditioning coach with the St. Louis Cardinals. She also worked in the Houston Astros organization until 2016. She went to the Netherlands and worked with their baseball and softball teams before coming back and becoming a hitting coach in the Yankees organization in November 2019.
per her instagram page:
"Why and how did I become a hitting coach?
That was a grueling, lonely 2 year process of reinventing myself. After 7 years as a strength coach in baseball, I realized that strength and conditioning was a starter home for me, not the dream home
I went to Amsterdam to be in a program under the leading researcher in eye tracking in the entire world which led to me getting an internship at Driveline baseball to conduct research on their hitters.
I also got to cross over to hitting while in the Netherlands with their national baseball and softball teams.
Dillon Lawson, NYY current ML hitting coach, who I had worked with while with Houston was now the hitting coordinator with NY and was looking for hitting coaches. He was in large part why I studied what I did in Amsterdam and why I was hired as a hitting coach.
But *why* did I do all of that? Because I love breaking down the swing? Not quite. I have been fascinated by human movement for a long time, but my real passion is organizational culture. I wanted to take a step closer to evaluating players’ on field abilities and learning more about the business behind the sport."
Here is an article last month from Sports Illustrated: https://www.si.com/mlb/2022/01/12/yankees-rachel-balkovec-first-minor-league-manager
Kim NG, first female GM.
She began her career with the Chicago White Sox in 1991 and became special projects analyst before being promoted to Assistant Director of Baseball Operations.
In March 1998, she was recruited by general manager Brian Cashman to work for the NY Yankees as assistant general manager. In 2005, Ng was interviewed for the Dodgers GM spot, becomig Ned Colletti's assistan. In the 15 yeas that followed, she interviewed for the Padres, Mariners, Giants and Angels.
On November 13, 2020, Ng was hired as general manager of the Miamia Marlins. Here is a SI article on that
Fun Fact: Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game when she suited up in an exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992. She was a phenomenal women's ice hockey goalie for Team Canada and played in the IHL and other leagues.