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Celebrating Black History Month…The Colored Hockey League was a Game-Changer

by Chris McCleary

Canada Post Black History Colored Hockey Championship stamps poster (2020)

Cambridge, ON – During Black History Month, Canadians celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada a culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous country.  The OHA strongly supports all manifestations of diversity and inclusiveness.

Black History Month is a time to learn more about these Canadian stories and the many other important contributions that Black Canadians and their communities have made to the history and continued growth of this country and the many positive contributions that Black Canadians have made on the game of hockey. Indeed, the OHA is committed to taking concrete steps aimed at being a leader in making meaningful change toward the game of hockey being accessible to all.

Hockey is one of the many facets within our culture that Black Canadians have had a positive impact on. Most will be shocked when they find out how much of an impact Black Canadians have had on the game of hockey in this country. The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHL) was an all-black ice hockey league founded in Nova Scotia, which featured teams from across Canada’s Maritime Provinces. The league operated for several decades lasting until 1930 and created a lot of positive change to the game.

The league was founded in 1895 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada by a group of four black Baptist leaders and black intellectuals: Pastor James Borden of Dartmouth Church, James A.R Kinney, lawyer and community leader James Robinson Johnston, and lawyer and Pan-African organizer Henry Sylvester Williams.

The league was constructed to attract young black men to Sunday worship with the promise of a hockey game between rival churches after the services. With the influence of the Black Nationalism Movement and with a rising interest in the sport of hockey, the league came to be seen as a potential driving force for the equality of Black Canadians.

Innovation was also at the forefront with the upstart league. Similar to the Negro Baseball League, the Colored Hockey League added a number of advancements to the game. Many people think that Montreal Canadians great Bernie ‘Boom Boom’ Geoffrion was the inventor of the slap shot. In reality, Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eurekas was the first hockey player to ever perform a slapshot and it occurred 25 years before Geoffrion was born Eddie’s teammate George Tolliver invented the flying body check. A third Eurekas, player Henry Franklyn, may have been the first person to play the goalkeeper position as we know it today, not remaining on his skates but instead squatting and lunging. It was more out of a matter of necessity; Franklyn was only three feet and six inches tall.

The Eurekas were a powerhouse in the early years of the league, winning nine of the first 12 league championships. The league would last until the 1930s when a number of issues forced them to fold including the financial constraints of the great depression. Even though it made a huge impact on the sport, the Colored Hockey League is all but forgotten. Which shouldn’t be the case; the advancement of black Canadians and the sport of hockey this league created needs to be highlighted.

About the Ontario Hockey Association

The Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) was founded on November 27, 1890, and is the governing body for the majority of Junior and Senior hockey in the Province of Ontario.  The OHA is a Member Partner of the Ontario Hockey Federation which is one of thirteen Provincial and Regional Branches of Hockey Canada. 

It is comprised of three Junior hockey leagues and two Senior hockey leagues: Junior A – Ontario Junior Hockey LeagueJunior B – Greater Ontario Junior Hockey LeagueJunior C – Provincial Junior Hockey LeagueSenior  – Allan Cup Hockey (AAA) and Ontario Elite Hockey League (AA). For the 2023-24 season, these five leagues encompass 123 teams.

The objectives of the OHA are to foster and encourage the sport of amateur hockey, to conduct competition in the various categories established, to determine teams for entry into the inter-branch competitions that may be provided by Hockey Canada, and to provide for the affiliation of other hockey organizations.

The OHA provides administrative resources, coordinates programs, services and events for hockey participants and provides support to various Development Programs for coaches, officials, trainers and players, Safety and Risk Management Issues and offers resources for Harassment and Abuse education.

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For more information or to set up an interview, please contact:

Chris McCleary

General Manager, Operations & Marketing           

Ontario Hockey Association                            

[email protected]  

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