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Okposo, Sabres welcome youth hockey player subjected to racial slurs

Forward gives advice to 17-year-old, tells of incident from own career

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

Kyle Okposo wanted a moment alone with Roshaun Brown-Hall.

After the pictures were taken and the meet and greet was over Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres forward and the 17-year-old Buffalo-area youth hockey player walked down a hall inside KeyBank Center and talked about what it's like being targeted on the ice because of the color of their skin.

"A pretty heavy conversation for somebody that you just met," Okposo said Wednesday. "Seventeen years old, starting in life, but I just tried to give him a little bit of insight, and if he needs anything down the road, he knows how to contact me." 

Brown-Hall and his family were guests of the Sabres at their game against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday. The Sabres gave them tickets to center Jack Eichel's suite after team officials saw news accounts of Brown-Hall enduring racial taunts and slurs during a game between his Amherst Youth Hockey under-18 team and a team from Cheektowaga, New York, on Jan. 20.

Cheektowaga players were shown on video making monkey sounds and gestures toward Brown-Hall, and one player could be heard using a racial slur.

The incident generated national attention and produced an outpouring of support for Brown-Hall, with players like Philadelphia Flyers forward Justin Bailey, who is from Western New York, reaching out to him.

Brown-Hall was excited about attending the game Tuesday, even though the Predators won 3-2. He said meeting Okposo and having a candid conversation with him about hockey and race was the highlight of the night.

"He basically told me don't let those kids put me down, they're not worth my time," Brown-Hall said. "A man in the NHL really told me some nice advice, and it's going to stick with me."

Okposo said he told Brown-Hall, "Whether it's fair or unfair, because of the color of your skin, you're going to have to work harder to get what you want in life and you're going to have to let some things roll off your back that you probably shouldn't.

"You're going to have to be the bigger man."

He shared with Brown-Hall a similar encounter that he endured when he was 16 and playing for Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Minnesota.

"We were in Marquette, Michigan," Okposo said. "A player after the second period said something racist to me and I freaked out. I was lucky that I had somebody there to mentor me in that situation, and it happened to be Tom Ward, who's an assistant coach here (with the Sabres) … He told me something and it helped me calm down. It was exactly what I needed to hear, and I'll never forget that. I hope that I can do something like that for Roshaun."

NHL.com correspondent Heather Engel contributed to this report

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