NHL Week in Review (January 14-20)

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These are strange times throughout North America and as a result many look towards past heroes for inspiration.

In the sports world, there are plenty of those heroes as the sports world have always been a place where political battles have been fought.

It might not necessarily be a place where athletes speak out constantly and make political statements.

It is a place where politics don’t have much of a say and that is exactly why it is a place where politics play out constantly.

Sor many sports is the greatest meritocracy in the world because it rarely matters where someone stands but rather if they can do the job.

Nobody really cares if a player is conservative, liberal, black, white, from a poor or rich family it only matters that they can play the game.

If they can play they get time and everyone gets a chance to show whether or not they are worth a spot.

It hasn’t always been perfect as there have been plenty of people standing in the way of progress no matter the league.

There are still barriers for some in trying to play a sport and sometimes things are not as equal as they should be but generally, things are all about the performance on the field.

It seems like sports are a place where big things happen that represent how the world is changing.

Although every sport and every major league want to stay out of the political frenzy as much as they can there is no avoiding it when sports reflects the world around them.

Every league has experienced this and they will continue to experience this as more barriers are broken through sports.

One of the biggest barriers in every sport was the racial inequality that surrounded the leagues in society.

For decades black athletes were forced to showcase their talents in separate leagues with rules and opinions in place to prevent them from making the big leagues.

Attitudes began to shift though and as society began changing the views of equality and laws began to change due to the civil rights movement, sports followed suit.

Although there were plenty of owners and executives who were stuck in the past a few began to change their mind.

They started to see the value of having athletes play for them and it didn’t matter who that athlete was.

More black players began finding a home on the biggest stages in sports simply because they were good enough to be there.

Colour barriers were broken and heroes were created with the biggest name among them being Jackie Robinson.hockey-sidebar

Robinson broke the colour barrier in the most popular sport in the USA in 1947 and became a legend in baseball and the rest of the world.

It may not have had the same effect on the world as when Robinson broke the colour barrier in baseball but there was another player who took on the same role in hockey.

The colour barrier in hockey was a slightly different story though as it wasn’t as much a concentrated effort to keep black players out although there was no effort to open the game up to more black players either.

Hockey has never been a sport that has been the most accessible to people from every walk of life.

To this day the sport is dominated by white players from Europe, USA and Canada and although the barriers are far less than they were before, it is still not the most accessible sport.

Back in 1957 things were a lot different as it was a sport that had never seen a black player and with no representation, there was nobody to look to for other black players.

That changed on January 18, 1957, when a man from Fredericton, New Brunswick became the first black player in the history of the NHL.

Willie O’Ree was called up by the Boston Bruins on that date and played his first game while breaking the colour barrier.

He faced a lot of the same issues that many of the other pioneers of sport did with racism leaving many to believe that he could never play simply because of the colour of his skin.

Although he might not have had the same impact on the league as Robinson did, O’Ree played one season and opened the door to others who might never have thought that hockey was an option.

Although the representation remains low in the NHL there are players from many backgrounds playing at the highest level.

In uncertain times like this these heroes that took a stand and did something that to them was simply what they were always meant to do is great to look at.

It shows that sports can be a place where society gets to see evolution in real-time and although there is still room for growth it takes people like O’Ree to make those changes happen.

 

Overtime

Glimpse of the Future

As the Olympics approach more teams are releasing their rosters for a hockey tournament that is going to be one of the more interesting with each announcement. One of the biggest announcements this week was the roster for the Swedish team with some familiar names and one name that really stood out. That is the name of Rasmus Dahlin who is currently the top prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft. Dahlin already had a great showing in the World Juniors and now will get a chance to show his talents on the biggest international stage.

Flyers Retire 88

Eric Lindros has had a complicated legacy in the NHL as he was once one of the greatest prospects in the NHL. His combination of skill, size and speed made him a can’t-miss prospect and he was going to be someone that could challenge Wayne Gretzky for greatest ever. Then he entered the league and despite his rapid pace to start his career injuries ended any hope of him reaching his true potential. For some, he did plenty to deserve the biggest honours and others are left wondering what could have been. This year he is getting the recognition for what he did on the ice entering the Hockey Hall of fame and this week having his number retired by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Ironman Streak Over

Ironman Streaks are some of the most endearing in sports as it takes someone special to avoid injury and play well enough to stay on the playing field. For Andrew Cogliano that was the case as he has never been a major star but was always a good player and that kept him in the lineup for years. The ability to avoid injury helped him amass the league’s longest active ironman streak at 830 games without sitting out. His pursuit of the record, 940 games held by Doug Jarvis, ended this week though when he was suspended for two games due to an illegal hit in a call that some don’t believe should have been made.

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