By Fred Wallace
Hi, this is Fred Wallace with " Off the Wire. "
Two former Owen Sound Junior Hockey players, Wayne Simmonds & Joel Ward, are members of a group of 7 NHL'ers; some active, some, like Ward, retired, who have created a coalition called " The Hockey Diversity Alliance. ".
The goal for The Hockey Diversity Alliance, is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.
For the record, all 7 players on the coalition are black, and thus have first hand experience of rising to the top in hockey, a sport that historically has been heavily populated, if not dominated, by white players, coaches and managers.
The announcement of the coalition arrives just after the death of George Floyd, a black man who was was killed in late May, as a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck at length, as Floyd cried out that he couldn't breathe.
However, the connection between the Alliance and George Floyd might be coincidental.
The Alliance relate they were in discussion about starting this group shortly after Akim Aliu, who is a co-head for the coalition, went public last November with his experiences of facing racism in professional hockey.
Here in Owen Sound, Joel Ward arrived in the Fall of 1997 and played 4 seasons with the Greys, the Platers and the Attack.
Simmonds joined the Attack in 2006 and was dealt a year and a half later to Sault Ste Marie. Trust me, the transaction had nothing to do with color; it was strictly based on Simmonds ability to play the game, which put him in high demand for the Soo and Kitchener at that time
I think it would be interesting to hear the perspectives of Ward and Simmonds as it pertains to hockey & life in Owen Sound.
By my count, a little more than a dozen black players have played for the Platers or the Attack over 30+ years.
Have there been incidents ?
None that I can document, or none that I witnessed first hand.
But Simmonds and Ward, along with a number of other black, native Canadian and Asians who have played here would have a closer viewpoint on life and hockey life in Owen Sound.
I'm Fred Wallace