Hockey’s origins are intertwined with African Culture and the Colored League paved the way for commercialized sports.

Sketch of depiction discovered on tomb at Beni Hassan in Menia Governate

Growing up as an African American, many innovations created and lead by people of African descent was unbeknownst to me. Institutions typically designate a month to highlight African American history. My recollection continuously recalls being habitually indoctrinated about slavery, segregation, and about prominent figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, etc. It wasn’t until I discovered self-education, and luckily recieved the funding to obtain higher education that I became acquainted with a wealth of knowledge about African American history. I believe it is crucial to inform other brown people of their origins and culture to create a space for our greatness into the consensus knowledge and to hopefully inspire black historians, anthropologist, and etc. to discover, highlight, and preserve African history.

Consensus Knowledge

The history of hockey and African culture are not interchangeable. The consensus recognize hockey as a white sport and immediately attach the words ice and Canada to the sport. As reported in 2011, 93% of players in the National Hockey League identify as white, which means only 7% of the league is currently comprised of minorities.1 According to Quant Hockey, Canadians dominate the profession with 445 players in the league, with America trailing at 270.2 Statistics indicates that only 3% of hockey’s fans are of African descent.3 In addition, Ice Hockey was popularized by wealthy Europeans in Canada, which elevated the sport from being labeled as a lower-class pastime to being recognized as a legitimate sport. Most research acknowledges African descents in Nova Scotia as a crucial part of Hockey’s history. However, early oral traditions claim that a variation of hockey was played in Ethiopia. As well as, a drawing on a tomb in Egypt proves that a variation of hockey was played by early Egyptians. It is crucial to highlight the influence of the black diaspora throughout the legitimization of this sport, to expand African American’s knowledge and awareness of their culture and influences.

African Origins

Genna, an Ethiopian term for hockey has been around since the birth of Jesus. The origin begins with an Oracle spread throughout history. News of Jesus death reached shepherds in the local Ethiopian area causing them to become overwhelmed with joy. Filled with glee, the shepherds picked up their crooks and began hitting around a ball. If this oral history is accurate, that would mean hockey has been around since 4 to 6 AD. Play occurred on open fields, that cattle typical roam. Early Ethiopians used the cows as objects to maneuver around. This variation of hockey differs from our standard schema of the sport we know today, which strictly takes place on ice with Homo Sapiens. Over 4,000 years ago, historians discovered a depiction on a tomb at Beni Hassan in Menia Governate. The depiction displayed two Egyptian males competing with long-palm branches with curved ends resembling hockey sticks around 2,000 B.C. These cultural influences would find themselves across the Atlantic Ocean through the African diaspora.

Black Ice

Due to the War of 1812, many black slaves escaped from bondage and relocated to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Four black families—Courtney, Williams, Munro, and Leale, whom relocated from the Chesapeake Bay Area, are accredited with having healthy children, who were physically able to play hockey on the frozen waters of the Northwest Arms around 1815. The National Hockey League commenced in 1917, beforehand in 1859, the Colored League of the Maritimes was formed in Halifax. Halifax was the refugee epicenter for blacks, after fleeing the tumultuous slavery issue occurring in America. The Colored League recorded beating some of the best white teams throughout Canada. These blacks are credited with creating a hockey technique called ‘slapshot’. Eddie Martin, a black man of the Halifax Eurekas, performed this technique in a 1906 game. Two white hockey hall of famers are credited with creating the ‘butterfly style’ of goaltending, but it is documented that a tiny black goaltender, Henry Braces Franklyn, preformed the move first in a Colored League game. The butterfly style is now used in a multitude of sports requiring goaltenders. Although, Blacks were left out of the history books for their innovate play and frequently excluded from the National Hockey League due to biological misconceptions of the time. Those misconceptions were that blacks were intolerant to the cold, lacked the required ankle strength to skate, and lacked the cognitive ability to understand complex hockey plays. Despite the odds being placed against them, the Colored League reshaped many techniques in hockey and competed with the white teams formed in juxtaposition to their league. In addition, the Colored League excelled in the structure of their games. The Colored League coordinated halftime entertainment for their games; this tactic attracted white audiences and the media at the time. The aforementioned tactic is currently used by any major sport.

1 .D'Angelo, Bob, and David Souza. “Thrashers Top NHL With Highest Percentage Of Black Players.” WSBTV. Cox Media Group

2. “Active NHL Players Totals by Nationality - Career Stats.” QuantHockey.

3. Thompson, Derek. “Which Sports Have the Whitest/Richest/Oldest Fans?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company

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Brianna Thomas
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