A member of the women's hockey community and the Sharks Sports & Entertainment family who wishes to remain anonymous tells us more about how hockey and Oakland Ice Center has impacted her life as a Black woman as part of our Teal For Change Blog:
1) Give us a little background on you. Where did you play, how you started playing, how long, position?
"I started playing hockey when I was 15 years old. It was kind of a late start, but I played basketball as a kid until I was 14 years old. Unfortunately, our school no longer had enough kids to complete a full basketball team, so we had to disband. A few of my friends that I would spend most of my time with recently had watched "The Mighty Ducks" and expressed how cool it would be to play hockey at an ice rink. We often played street hockey to pass the time, but we had no clue what we were doing and absolutely did not know any rules or proper techniques when it came to hockey, including not having the correct equipment, but we enjoyed skating. We finally decided to take initiative on where and how we could start playing ice hockey and found The Oakland Ice Center."
2. How has the sport of hockey shaped your life, especially as a black woman?
"I remember feeling so out of place when I walked into the rink, though I can be a bit of an introvert. My immediate reaction was that there were not many kids that looked like me, a young black woman. Although this made me feel like an outsider, André Lacroix, who was the Director of Hockey Programs at Oakland Ice Center until 2005 made me feel welcomed. He is one of the reasons I continued to learn and improve my skills. Figuring out what position to play came quickly to me - I fell in love with playing defense because I got to use my time on the ice as an outlet to channel my emotions."
3. What was the biggest highlight of your hockey career?
"My biggest highlight would have to be the last few years I played youth hockey because I played on a coed hockey team and there were at least five girls which is not a common occurrence in youth hockey. Even though I was the only black girl on the team, it helped tremendously to have other girls to connect with. I played with the same group of kids for over two years, and we had a blast! Between dryland, sleepovers, parties, tournaments, and just hang out with each other, we were able to create lasting bonds. By the time I aged out, I was more than comfortable with my teammates and ready to start the next chapter in my life."
4. How important do you think it is to have representation of the black community within the sport of hockey?
"Since I was young, a big goal of mine has always been to travel the world, but I had no idea where to start. Growing up my family and I did not have a lot of money, so it became a bit of a challenge to figure out the finer details. But what the sport of hockey did was create opportunities for me to travel, get to know new people, and find a path to reach a goal that I really enjoyed."
5. What advice would you give to young Black girls out there who want to play hockey but think they might not belong?
"My advice to young black girls considering playing hockey would be to block out the outside noise. People may try to make you feel like you do not belong, but the more we push past this thought, the more we can increase our numbers."