By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor
PHILADELPHIA (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) – On the heels of the greatest hockey game I ever saw (the Winter Olympics gold medal match between the U.S. and Canada) the Stanley Cup playoffs were magnificent.
American audiences were re-energized by the Original Six member Chicago Blackhawks’ drive to win the Cup over the nasty (and nice) Philadelphia Flyers in the highest-rated Cup final in over a decade.
An added bonus to the mix was that prior to the final, there was a guarantee another Goal Brotha would have their name etched forever on Lord Stanley’s hardware; either the Flyers’ goalie Ray Emery (injured earlier that season) or ‘Hawks winger Dustin Byfuglien’s name will be part of a hockey champion’s roster.
Byfuglien emerged as a force in the playoffs, banging in 11 goals, five assists and scored the winning goal in three consecutive playoff games. “Big Buff “also showed a deft touch with a wrist shot as well as providing a huge screen for his teammates, along with hitting everything that moved as a counter to the Flyers’ Chris Pronger’s on-ice deviltry.
Particularly in Game Five of the series, Byfuglien beat Pronger like he stole something (which he allegedly did in an earlier contest); and the image of the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Pronger getting the rock-a-bye treatment from Big Buff (at 6-feet-4, 260 pounds) put a cap on everything the Goal Brothas did collectively throughout the playoffs.
But the attitude and tone of Mouse hockey analyst Matthew Barnaby was sad, to say the least. While his ESPN colleague Barry Melrose was effusive in pointing out Byfuglien’s contribution, Barnaby did his best to downplay it – reflecting perhaps a mindset the National Hockey League will have to come to grips with if it expects to grow into a major sport again beyond Canadian borders in North America.
Because of the effort by players like Byfuglien, Chris Stewart (whose timely scoring for the Colorado Avalanche scared the hell out of San Jose in the early rounds) Wayne Simmonds (versus Vancouver for the Los Angeles Kings), Joel Ward and Francis Bouillon (vs. Chicago for the Nashville Predators) and P.K. Subban’s sparking two-way skills on defense for the Montreal Canadiens in upsetting previous Cup champ Pittsburgh and vs. Philadelphia), that hollow sound which once bellowed from Jacques Demers when he spoke of hockey being a “white man’s game” becomes more so.
This bunch of Goal Brothas has permanently kicked down the door of exclusion. They know they are the best, but how many of their predecessors were forever buried in the minor leagues because of petty minds like Demers?
Don’t pretend he was by himself…
And how many were unaware of the fact Byfuglien changed his number from No. 52 to No. 33 to honor former Blackhawk captain Dirk Graham, the first Black captain and first Black head coach in the NHL?
As my friends and colleagues, George and Darril Fosty, have proved there is a distinct and defined history of Black men playing hockey in Canada – for generations. What the fuck did you think those brothers in Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario were doing in the winter – playing basketball???
Perhaps if that same poison didn’t exist in the Great White North, a kid like Tommy Kane becomes a professional hockey champion instead of an average pro football player; or a young man like Kevin Weekes wouldn’t see bananas being thrown at him as he strived to become a great goaltender.
If the minds and hearts of those running the NHL aren’t 100 percent behind “best man plays” and marketing the game beyond Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin (much as I love that cat’s style) the game will once again denigrate to somnambulistic simpletons who worship a status quo; instead of what the best (regardless of color) have to show.
Because the real issue, whether said aloud or not, is the fear that those jobs once guaranteed to certain people are now primed for even more intense competition; so each NHL franchise will have to decide what matters more: winning a title with the best team they can put together, or keep up appearances while submerging worthier talent – for whatever reason.
My Popsicle Brother Gary Norris Gray noticed while in the jubilation of the moment as the Blackhawks each took their turn with the Cup, the polite cheers for all the Blackhawks turned to boos as Byfuglien skated around with the trophy.
Boos for a formidable opponent? Or straight – up hating because many in that arena didn’t want that young Black man to enjoy his moment?
Hate all you want if that’s how you wanna roll; because the best of the Goal Brothas is yet to come – and this time, all your bullshit won’t be able to stop it.
always outnumbered – never outgunned.