Sunday, October 16, 2016

Winterhawks leadership corps: a colorful bunch

When the Portland Winterhawks announced their leadership group for 2016-17, something jumped out at me.  In a white mans world, & a white man's game, Portland's leadership group had some color to it.

As a hockey fan, and a believer in the concept of all men are created equal, I hold these truths self evident that it shouldn't matter who wears the "C" & "A" on their sweater, as long as they are qualified to handle the responsibility.  However, as the current election season has taught us, we're not there yet.

Keegan Iverson has been named the 41st Captain in Winterhawks team history.   Portland fans have been following Iverson's career for years now.  He signed as a 15 year old, picked in the 3rd round of the WHL bantam draft.  Appeared in a game right after signing, & has been a part of the team ever since.  Drafted by the New York Rangers in 2014 - many folks thought his upside was pretty high.  Say what you will about the Jamie Kompon era, but Iverson was one of many players who didn't develop as expected as an 18 or 19.  Coming off of Minnesota Wild training camp, he's been awarded a leadership role by Mike Johnston - who originally recruited & signed Iverson.

 Its been 58 years since Willie O'ree broke the color barrier in NHL. Even today, there are around 10 players of African descent in the 30 team NHL.    Joel Ward wears 42 as a tribute to Jackie Robinson.  He caught a bunch of shit after scoring an important playoff goal a few years back.

One of the players entrusted with an alternate captains role for Portland this season is Keoni Texeria.  His WHL career has been interesting - as a 2nd round bantam pick, the team & fans have both been high on the defenseman.  The potential we anticipated hasn't realized in being drafted, but a free agent invite to Capitals camp proved fruitful for Texeria.  Surprisingly, one season later provided another draftless summer for Keoni, as well as no NHL camp invites.  He's responded by leading the WHL in scoring by Defenseman in the early stages of the season, while representing his Hawaiian heritage.

It hasn't been that long since the incident in London, ON where a fan threw a banana at Wayne Simmonds - hard to interpret it as anything but a racist act.

Another member of the Winterhawks leadership group is Caleb Jones.  Obviously, we know his brother Seth

As a watched prospect, who was drafted by Edmonton (with their 2nd pick that year),  signed by Edmonton.   You know all about his dad Popeye.   If you missed it, there were some interesting clips from Oilers training camp involving Jones.

Its hard to determine if this Krys Barch / PK Subban incident has racial undertones,  but asking a black guy about "slipping on a banana peel" could be interpreted as such.

Bear Bryant is often given credit for integrating  the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Of course, he only did so because adding black players to his team made them more competitive.  I write this on the 48th anniversary of Tommie Smith & John Carlos making the black power salute as part of the 1968 Olympics.

It shouldn't matter what your ethnicity is in sport - just how you perform.  Maybe we'll get there someday, but in 2016 its notable when a hockey team has a leadership group composed 75% of players of color.

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