On Sunday, March 21, the Ontario Reign made history as Quinton Byfield, Akil Thomas and Devante Smith-Pelly hit the ice together as the first all-Black line in nearly 80 years. It was the first time an all-Black line had played together in professional hockey since the "Black Aces" in the 1940's.
Byfield and Thomas are both Kings draft picks and Smith-Pelly is a recently-signed former Stanley Cup winning veteran.
Byfield started off the scoring for the Reign with a breakaway goal just 4:43 into the game. Then, the line collectively recorded four goals, two assists and combined for a plus-7, while also scoring the shootout game-winner.
From there, Thomas led the Reign's third-period comeback with a natural hat trick in under three minutes, tying the game up with just 23 seconds remaining in the game. Thomas would also go on to score the game-winning goal in the shootout. Earlier today, Thomas spoke to the media addressing the significance of what he, Byfield and Smith-Pelly accomplished. "To be a part of history and breaking barriers was really cool. I was honored to be a part of it," Thomas said.
The trio not only made history by becoming the first all-Black line in eight decades, but also scored all of the team's goals in the 5-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate, the Bakersfield Condors.
For Thomas, with his eyes set on the bigger picture, he realizes playing on an all-Black line is more than just scoring goals and trying to win the game. "It was cool to play with [Quinton Byfield] and [Devante Smith-Pelly], but It doesn't matter what color skin we are, it's just cool that we have the opportunity to inspire others and grow the game… It's more about the young Black kids who play hockey who can see us and get inspired and make them feel like they have a place in the game," Thomas told the media.
You can catch the barrier-breaking Smith-Pelly-Byfield-Thomas line and the Ontario Reign next on Wednesday, March 24th at 6:00 P.M. on AHLTV as they take on the San Diego Gulls from the Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo.