As part of the NHL's celebration of Black History Month, NHL.com will highlight great moments and important figures in black hockey history each day throughout February. Pioneers like Willie O'Ree, Angela James and Grant Fuhr will be featured.
Today we look at Bryce Salvador, the third black captain in NHL history.
Bryce Salvador was told after the Tampa Bay Lightning selected him in the sixth round (No. 138) of the 1994 NHL Draft that he would never make it, that he was "too slow, too soft. You'll never play a game in the NHL."
Not only did Salvador play 13 seasons in the NHL (albeit none with the Lightning), he overcame a scary injury to become the third black captain in League history, following Dirk Graham (Chicago Blackhawks) and Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames).
The native of Brandon, Manitoba made it to the NHL in 2000-01 with the St. Louis Blues as a shot-blocking, stay-at-home defenseman. He was traded to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, 2008 and added a little more offense to his reliable play in his own zone. Late in the 2009-10 season, he took a slap shot in the face, beginning an odyssey that would end up forcing him to sit out the 2010-11 season while he recovered from an injury that threw off his balance, vision and spatial awareness.
He was back on the ice for the 2011-12 season and helped New Jersey advance to the Stanley Cup Final. He was named captain the following season and held the position until retiring after the 2014-15 season.
Salvador is an analyst on Devils telecasts and works with young players in New Jersey, focusing on the benefits hockey can bring to kids.
"If I believe in one thing in life, it's that hockey is a force for good," he wrote in a story for The Players' Tribune when announcing his retirement. "It can change kids' lives and give them an outlet so that no matter what's going on with them personally, they can get on the ice for a few hours and forget about everything but that little black piece of rubber."