Smithsonian honors Black hockey players

A new exhibition explores Black athletes’ contributions to hockey. (Courtesy Smithsonian/Robert Stewart)

Contributions Black athletes have made to hockey are now being showcased in the sports gallery at D.C.’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A new exhibition case installed in the “Sports: Leveling the Playing Field” gallery explores the sport’s early history and Black athletes’ contributions to it.

“We can still see part of the innovations from the Colored Hockey League today,” Damion Thomas, curator of sports at the museum, told WTOP.

Canada’s Colored Hockey League was founded in 1895 by descendants of African Americans who escaped slavery and fled north. It lasted for 35 years, and its players pioneered innovations like butterfly goaltending, a technique goaltenders use to block score attempts.

“That’s one of the ways in which we can still see the vestiges of this very important league in today’s game,” said Thomas.

“This story of hockey — the full story — acknowledges Black athletes’ crucial role in shaping hockey as we know it today, and tells a more inclusive history of not just hockey, but the enduring legacy of slavery,” Thomas said.

Several items on view showcase the history of the CHL. Other objects on display include a patch and magazine from D.C.’s Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority youth hockey club in the U.S.

WTOP’s Nardos Mesmer contributed to this report.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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