Stamp recognizes the achievements and struggles of pioneering Black Canadian players who overcame adversity, broke down racial barriers and changed how ice hockey is played
Canada Post’s latest stamp honours the Colored Hockey Championship and the all-Black hockey teams in the Maritimes that competed for it between 1895 and the early 1930s.
It is impossible to fully appreciate this story without understanding the Canada of the day, when Blacks lived in segregated communities that often lacked proper roads, health services, water or street lamps.
It’s also important to shine a light on stories like this as they are an important, but unfortunately little-known, part of our history. That point is made best by Canadian authors George and Darril Fosty in their book Black Ice, The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925:
“The history of Black Canadians has, for the most part, either been forgotten, deliberately destroyed, or conveniently ignored. Most historians have often dismissed it, or have viewed it as irrelevant. When it has been discussed, it has often been presented in relation to the cause and effects of American and New World Slavery. If the truth were known, Canadian Black history is as complex and intriguing as that of any European race or nation that has shaped the modern world. It is a history rich in its telling, one that evokes heroism, determination and dignity. It is realism, hidden by popular ignorance and modern theory. It is a legendary story supplanted by modern bias and myths.” (Page 194).
The story begins in the late 1800s with Baptist Church leaders who believed all-Black hockey would be a great way to attract young Black men to the Church to strengthen their religious path. They were also painfully aware that Black players were restricted from playing in white-only leagues. Black players possessed skills that rivalled the players in “white-only” leagues. Their style of play was physical, fast and innovative. Players pioneered certain aspects of the game as we know it today, such as the down-to-the-ice style of goaltending, or butterfly style.
In telling this story, Canada Post hopes to highlight the struggles and achievements of Black Canadians – and the role they played not just in the evolution of hockey but in breaking down barriers and improving Canadian society – for future generations.
As with any stamp issue, we understand there is always much more to the story. We encourage anyone interested in learning more to read the insightful and extensively researched Canadian book Black Ice. We are also pleased to offer the following video below, which includes relatives of former players who graciously share what they remember or were told of those days.