Monday, March 6, 2017

Review of "Black Ice"

Whenever I ride the train to attend a game, I try to find a book about the sport that I am going to see.  This past weekend I went to a hockey game in Newark, New Jersey and was looking for a hockey book. When combing through my library of e-books, I found this one that I picked up a few years ago, but just never got around to reading it.  Now that I have, I can't decide whether I should have done so a lot earlier or whether it was good to wait until now.  Either way, it was one of the better books I have read in quite awhile.  Here is my review of an account of the little-known Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes.

“Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes” by George and Daril Fosty

Ice hockey, race, history

Publish date:
November 1, 2004

264 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

While the NHL is celebrating its 100th season this year, it was not the first organized hockey league – that honor goes to the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes.  Organized in 1895 in Nova Scotia, this league is finally given its proper recognition in this outstanding work by George and Daril Fosty. 

With help from the leadership of the Baptist Church, a transplant from Trinidad named Henry Sylvester Williams was the mastermind of the league as the first games were played in 1895 and with the popularity of ice hockey in Canada, the league became popular for both players and spectators.  Not only was the sport itself a means for blacks to earn a little but it also was a business opportunity for blacks in a time and place when those opportunities were few and far between.

The quality of play was very good and through extensive research, the Fosty brothers reveal that two important staples of the game were invented in the Colored Hockey League, but because of either oversight or a lack of proper credit, it has not been well known.  The act of a goalie dropping to the ice to cover the puck was started by goaltender Henry “Little Braces” Franklyn in 1898.  There were also players who through their sheer power began shooting the puck with extra force, the forefather of today’s slap shot.

Reading about this, the teams and what they went through in order to play the game (which included games against teams of white players as well as other colored teams in the league) and the struggle of black Canadians for civil rights made for a riveting read that was read in one sitting by this reviewer.

Whether a reader is a hockey historian, interested in civil rights history, or just wants to read a compelling book about a chapter in sports history that seems to have been ignored until now, this well-written and richly detailed book will satisfy that desire.

Book Format Read:
E-book (Kindle)

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