By William Douglas, Color of Hockey
“Soul on Ice, Past, Present, and Future,” the award-winning black hockey history documentary, is heading to London in October as part of the United Kingdom’s Black History Month celebration.
Canadian filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason’s hockey labor of love is scheduled to be screened at London’s Picturehouse Central on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 10:30 a.m., and Sunday, Oct. 22, at 9 p.m. The screenings will be followed by question and answer sessions with Mason.
As part of the Ourscreen program, advance tickets are sold for the two events. Tickets can be purchased online through the Ourscreen website linked here.
“Soul on Ice Past, Present, and Future” chronicles the joy and the pain experienced by black players, from members of the ground-breaking Colored Hockey League in the Canadian Maritimes from 1895 to 1925 to the stars skating on National Hockey League’s 31 teams.
Some familiar faces – past and present – share their hockey stories: Philadelphia Flyers All-Star forward Wayne Simmonds, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley, San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward, Edmonton Oilers goaltending great Grant Fuhr, Buffalo Sabres/Quebec Nordiques/New York Rangers sniper Tony McKegney, and former Sabres/Toronto Maple Leafs tough guy Val James, the NHL’s first black player born in the United States.
Mason devoted nearly four years and spent about $200,000 of mostly his own money to make the film. It won a People’s Choice Award at the Edmonton International Film Festival in October 2015.
The NHL was so impressed by “Soul on Ice’s” educational and uplifting message that it hosted the film’s U.S. premiere in Washington in January 2016 and aired it on the NHL Network in February 2016 to commemorate U.S. Black History Month.
“It’s about doing some myth-breaking. You look at other sports where black athletes are underrepresented, and it’s a struggle to try to encourage young black people to get into them,” Dacres told me recently. “The parents will say ‘Why are you bothering the kids.’ And the kid’s mates will say ‘Hockey’s not the sport for you, black guys don’t skate.’ It’s about showing that we have some pioneers and some very strong role models that actually give people and young children something to work toward and aspire to.”
The movie is also deeply personal for Dacres, who endured racial slurs in his younger days when he played with the Bradford Bulldogs.
“They just kind of said ‘Just get on with it, mate, just play the game and get on with it,’” Dacres recalled the reaction to the slurs. “Today, we don’t need to do that. We can challenge that poor negative behavior but we can do that by showing some positive role models.”
Although there are few hockey players of color in the United Kingdom, they have made their presence felt.
Hilton Ruggles, a Montreal-born left wing, tallied 1,096 goals, 929 assists and 2,200 penalty minutes in 946 games in the British Hockey League, British Ice Hockey Superleague, and the United Kingdom’s Elite Ice Hockey League. Ruggles was inducted into the UK Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.
He’s one of the United Kingdom’s most-decorated players, having won an EIHL championship, an International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship Gold Medal in Division D1B in 2016-17, and scoring more goals than any other British-born player in the EIHL in 2006-07, 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, and 2013-14.
Clarke, a member of Great Britain’s national team, has notched 289 goals and 238 assists in 553 EIHL games.
And several talented black NHL players have found their way across the pond to play. Rumun Ndur, a Nigerian-born defenseman, played for the Sabres and Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) before skating for the EIHL’s Coventry Blaze and Clarke’s Panthers in Nottingham.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs right wing John Craighead, an American, played for the Panthers from 2003 to 2005. Anthony Stewart, a Canadian right wing who played for the Thrashers, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes, suited up for the Panthers in 2012-13 during the NHL’s player lockout that season.
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