The Colored Hockey League of Maritimes in Nova Scotia was formed in 1894 across the provinces of Canada. This was 22 years before the National Hockey League. The first all-black ice hockey league held over a dozen teams and employed over 400 African-Canadian players. The men were typically natives from the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island areas. The league was especially surprising to the stereotypical beliefs of whites that blacks couldn’t endure cold climates or that we didn’t have ankles strong enough to ice skate.

Before the Colored Hockey League, the white leagues played in a primitive, gentle manner. The CHL transformed the game into a fast-paced competition. It was formed by Baptist Ministers and Church Administrators who were the sons and grandsons of runaway slaves. The league consisted of teams such as the Dartmouth Jubilees, the Halifax Eurekas, the Truro Sheiks and the AfricVille Brown Bombers. The Colored Hockey League would use the teachings of Booker T. Washington, the Bible and speech resources from the Underground Railroad in their gamebooks and strategies.

Many hockey firsts were said to have come from the Colored Hockey League. For instance, the practice of allowing the goalie to use their feet to cover a puck was said to have come from the Colored League in 1900. League player Eddie Martin was also said to have been the first to use the slap shot.

Unfortunately, the contributions of the CHL were ignored and copied by white leagues, who took credit for many of the game-changing elements. The league would eventually dissolve among racism and discrimination for a league and race that had grown in power through sport. There is little reference to the Colored Hockey League in any Canadian hockey archives.

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4 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: The Colored Hockey League

  1. As a proud Canadian of european descent, I had never even heard that there was a segregated league, let alone that it had made such huge contributions to the modern sport of hockey. When a black american friend told me about it during black history month some years back, I instantly reacted with denial. Black hockey players in a segregated league? In Canada? Invented modern hockey? No faquing way!

    I don’t have a racist bone in my body, but hockey is like a religion up here. It’s one of the few things that we can all agree is a defining Canadianism, and it’s also one of the few things that we really take seriously. But then I read about it, and it was plain as day. I couldn’t believe I had to be told about our national game by someone in another country, and I still shake my head to realize how it’s been downplayed and almost erased from Canadian history.

    Something else we’re proud about up here is that this kind of crap, marginalizing a people because of their color, doesn’t happen in Canada. At least it’s not supposed to happen in the Canada I was raised to believe in. This should be proudly taught as a watershed moment in Canadian history, not swept under the rug.

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