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Black History Month

Black History Month spotlight: Marson has own moment

Plays first game with Capitals 16 years after O'Ree's debut

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

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 Michael Marson, who in 1974 became the second black player in NHL history.

Michael Marson became the second black player in NHL history, and the first to reach the League after being drafted, when he took the ice for the first-year Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 9, 1974. It came 16 years after Willie O'Ree became the NHL's first black player.

Marson's skin color brought the 19-year-old forward a lot of unwanted attention, whether it was a headline in The Hockey News or racial slurs and taunts from fans and opponents. The second-round pick (No. 19) in the 1974 NHL Draft also had to overcome playing on the team with the worst record in NHL history; Marson's 16 goals were double the number of wins the Capitals (8-67-5) managed that season.

The native of Scarborough, Ontario, spent the next five seasons bouncing between the Capitals and their American Hockey League affiliates. He played three games for the Los Angeles Kings in 1979-80 and finished his NHL career with 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) in 196 games.

More than 35 years after his time on ice with the Capitals ended, Marson was honored with a video tribute March 28, 2016.

This time, all he heard were cheers from the crowd at Verizon Center, where the 18,506 fans gave him a standing ovation.

"Everybody was looking at me and clapping their hands -- jubilation," he told Comcast Sportsnet after the tribute.

Marson was also thrilled when Devante Smith-Pelly, another black player from Scarborough, played a key role in the Capitals' run to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2018. Smith-Pelly had seven goals in 24 playoff games, including the tying goal in Game 5 before Lars Eller scored the game-winner that brought the Cup to Washington.

"I take my hat off to [Smith-Pelly]," Marson told colorofhockey.com. "A lot of hard work there, a little bit of rough water occasionally, I think, but good for him."

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