NEWARK, N.J. -- P.K. Subban is thankful for the sacrifices made in the past that have given him and other players of color the courage to promote an even more diverse game for the future.
The New Jersey Devils defenseman joined teammate Wayne Simmonds for a tour of the NHL's Black Hockey History mobile museum truck on Championship Plaza outside Prudential Center on Monday. In celebration of Black History Month 2020, the mobile museum is making stops at 14 NHL cities across North America.
"It's always a little bit moving to see the information and to see the history, but it's eye opening because it just reminds you that every day you step on the ice, you're making history," Subban said. "Sometimes we just get so caught in the moment that we don't think bigger. If players like Willie O'Ree or Herb Carnegie only operated in the moment, maybe I wouldn't be here."
This year's Black Hockey History museum offers fans an opportunity to learn about hockey's biggest moments, milestones, and playmakers in the sport, while also celebrating the pioneers and trailblazers who helped shape NHL history.
"It's important for people to understand that this is not just about black hockey players or players of different backgrounds," Subban said. "This is about the game of hockey, and this is for everyone. This is the growth of our game."
Subban and Simmonds each signed a 'Wall of Pucks' display, which represents every black player to play in the NHL. Co-curator Kwame Mason was also present to educate about several notable achievements.
"I think as black players, the onus is on us to help play a part in building a more diverse league," Simmonds, a forward, said. "We got to continue to spread the game, run camps, go into cities where they might not be exposed to hockey.
"Without the players who helped grow the game, myself and other players of color wouldn't be able to lace up the skates and play so we've got to pay homage to what came before us."
Subban said he was surprised when Mason presented him with a revised edition of the book, 'A Fly In A Pail Of Milk: The Herb Carnegie Story', that was first released in 2010. The new version included a quote by Subban on the front cover.
"This was one of the first books I ever read," Subban said. "Just to see my quote on the front of the cover is amazing. I'm pretty hard on myself and always want to push forward and sometimes I don't really take the time to sit and realize the impact that has happened over the 10 years of my career. Something as small as that really makes your day and put things in perspective."
Subban's quote at the top of the front cover reads, "Thanks Mr. Carnegie for teaching me to make the best of my opportunities and not be a victim of my circumstances."
Carnegie was part of the first and only all-black forward line in semi-professional hockey in the 1940's known as "The Black Aces," with his brother Ossie and Manny McIntyre.
The Devils will host their annual Black Hockey History Month Night when they play the Florida Panthers at Prudential Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, FS-F, NHL.TV). Black Hockey History Month t-shirts will be sold on the arena's main concourse, with all proceeds benefitting the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
The evening will highlight key moments in Black Hockey History and Devils history. Six children from the Hockey in New Jersey Program will join Devils players on the blue line during the national anthem, which will be performed by Newark Boys Chorus School.
Simmonds said the highlight during his museum visit was seeing the first Boston Bruins jersey worn by O'Ree.
"I've gotten an opportunity to have lunch with Willie," Simmonds said. "I remember playing in Los Angeles 12 years ago, and Willie was living in San Diego at the time. He and his family came out to one of my games with the Kings, and that was probably the best moment of my life.
"Willie's been my idol since the day I laced up a pair of skates, and I know I can go to Willie anytime. He's a great man and if I had anything to ask him, I know he'd get back to me in a hurry."
Subban said he's happy the NHL is playing a big part in the 'Hockey Is For Everyone' initiative.
"I want to see the best version of the game before I'm finished," he said. "When I'm finished, I want to see it get even better. It's about the next generation and moving it forward. I think, as players, we want to do our part. I've had conversations with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, and they've all been positive conversations.
"I have no reason to think the League isn't going to continue to work with us, and we want to work with it because as long as I'm helping the process, that's going to make me happy."