History Made in the 2020 NHL Draft: Cause for Celebration and Reflection

On October 6th, lives were changed forever as 31 of the best 18-year-old hockey players got to hear their name called virtually meaning they were drafted to an NHL team. Unfortunately, this dream may not be realizable for all young children, particularly those that are not white. 

Of the 31 players drafted on October 6th in the first round of the NHL draft, there was one player classified as being black. NHL.com posted an article outlining the top Black talent in this year’s draft, stating that there was a total of “at least eight” Black players ranked and draft eligible. Of the eight listed by NHL.com, only four were drafted, with Quinton Byfield being the only first round selection at second overall to Los Angeles, making him the highest drafted Black player ever in the NHL, according to CBC sports. While it may seem that Byfield being drafted second overall is a step in the right direction for the NHL, the issues of the inclusion of a diverse group of players has been around for quite some time and continues to be perpetuated today. 

Conn Smythe, hall of fame hockey coach (Source: The Star) 

Herb Carnegie was in the New York Rangers organization in the 1940s and was finally ready to play in the NHL in the 1949 season until his head coach stated he was not ready, which was discussed in the book Strange Career of the Black Athlete: African Americans and Sports. Conn Smythe, a hockey icon and hall of fame coach was later quoted saying that “I’ll pay $10,000 to any man that could turn Carnegie white”. Hypothetically offering $10,000 to change the race of a talented player demonstrated the depth of racism ingrained in hockey. The sport of hockey has shown time and time again that there is a very relevant culture of oppression towards the Black athlete, and these barriers continue to be present today. 


Quinton Byfield, drafted 2nd overall, the highest of any black in NHL History (Source: OHL) 

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