A member of our inaugural Teal For Change Council, Kristina Goodchild, recollects on the impact that representation in the game of hockey has played on her love of the game as part of our Teal For Change Blog.
Mike McHugh, Dale Craigwell, Mike Grier, Derek Joslin, Jamal Mayers, Joel Ward, and Evander Kane. A few months ago, only two of those names would have rung a bell in my head. Now, each of those men's names mean so much more.
I grew up in Southern California and did not get much exposure to the sport of hockey, let alone see a hockey arena in person. So, in 2018 when I was offered a position with the San Jose Sharks, I did not understand entirely what I was accepting.
Of course, I had heard the big hockey names over the years, like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Teemu Selanne (one of the bigger hockey names that came from the West Coast) and Wayne Gretzky (thanks to Michael Scott from theTV show "The Office").
Now, as a multi-racial woman, who grew up with a black father, I understand why I did not gravitate to hockey growing up: because there was no one who looked like me in a sea of white faces.
I've really come to understand the importance of representation as I've gotten older.
For me, I found I was able to relate to professional athletes that share similar characteristics with me, such as race and/or gender. I became emotionally invested in their sports.
Since I started with the Sharks organization in 2018, I did not get to experience the effect alumn Joel Ward had on the organization, but I do hear the stories. Joel was a prominent personality in the community as well as our front office. He was involved in the community and a champion for the Sharks Foundation. He was friendly to everyone he saw in the office, no matter who you were.
While he was warming up for home games, it was common to hear, "good luck tonight, Wardo." And of course, he'd also reply warmly. He was also incredibly generous and well known for the phenomenal lunches he would order Team Teal to celebrate the end of a successful hockey season. This guy - who scored the clinching goal to take the San Jose Sharks to the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals for the first time ever - showed people that there is more to life than just playing and being a hockey player.
Evander Kane, now that is a name, I do not think I will ever forget. He was the first Sharks player that I heard everyone talk about. Everyone was so excited he was joining our team.
The very first game I attended as a fan was the first time, I felt the Shark Tank shake. The cause? "EK 9" was sitting in the penalty box and when the camera showed him, he waved his hands in an upward motion, asking for the crowd to get even louder.
At that moment, I fell in love with the game - the energy of the crowd was magnificent. At that moment, I finally understood how the sport of hockey can draw you in and how you never want to leave. You're invested.
On top of that, seeing someone who looked like me be able to create unity with their own fans during a game. That was something special.
Off the ice, he is just as impressive.
Last season the NHL's Black History Truck came to town and the first one involved and on that bus was Evander. He loves getting involved with the San Jose community, with events that involve organizations such as the Special Olympics, Vision to Learn and DonorsChoose. He shows people that there is more to life than just playing hockey.
As we celebrate Black History Month during February, I want to also highlight the other influential black hockey players that the Sharks had the honor to have on our roster.
- The San Jose Sharks were the last team he played for in the NHL. He was a huge stand out in the AHL and was awarded the Jack A Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the 1997 Calder Cup Playoffs.
- Was the 11th player EVER drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 1991.
- Was best know for his work on the Penalty Kill - San Jose Sharks ranked 14th, 1st and 4th in the penalty kill, in the years Grier was on the team.
- Made his debut on January 3, 2009 following an injury to Douglas Murray. Joslin was a standout in the AHL where he won the Hardest Shot Contest at the AHL All-Star Skills Competition - 98.6 mph
- Only played for the San Jose Sharks for one year but is now a current analyst for the NHL Network and NBC Sports Chicago.
What all these players have in common is, not only that they are black, but they as black athletes helped drive the sport forward. These athletes are proof that people who look like them, can also accomplish whatever they put their minds to.
Please join us in celebrating Black History Month all month long for those who have made a positive contribution to the game of hockey and in our communities.