“Not in the right sport”

I know a lot of hockey players and fans make fun of basketball, but as someone who grew up playing and watching a ton of basketball, I still love everything about March Madness.

The first four days of the tournament (not including the First Four games, which I’m not interested in), I pretty much ate, drank, and slept basketball, except to take a break to see the University of North Dakota get upset by Colorado College in the WCHA Final Five.

If you’re like me and your eyes were glued to CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV from Thursday to Sunday or if you watched even 15 minutes of March Madness, you probably saw the following Powerade commercial:

Now I’m done talking about basketball, I promise.

So since this is a blog about hockey, I’m sure you can guess which part of the commercial stood out to me: the black hockey player.

The hockey player comes to an abrupt stop while skating with his team and says, “Not in the right sport,” addressing what many people think when they see a black hockey player.

I saw plenty of tweets this weekend by people calling Powerade racist for this commercial. I think those people are clearly missing the point of the commercial.

Powerade’s message to athletes is to “power through” the obstacles and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t excel in your sport, whether it’s because you’re the “wrong” color (in the hockey player’s case) or because you’re the “wrong” size or sex and you’re not fast enough or whatever that “thing” is for you.

I realize Powerade’s main goal is to sell more of their product, but I applaud the company for producing such a message.

When it comes to sports, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not fit to be an athlete or a fan because of a certain characteristic of yours.

For me, that means not letting the stereotype that women who love hockey and go to games are puck bunnies bother me and prevent me from being passionate about the sport that I’ve fallen in love with.

And for some people, like the guy in the video, that means continuing to work hard in the sport you love despite being the “wrong” color in the white-dominated hockey world.

If you’re black and you love to play hockey, I applaud you and cheer you on. If you prefer football or basketball, that’s great too. Race shouldn’t dictate what sport you play; your love of the game should.

The funny thing about the stereotype that black people cannot play hockey is that it’s rather ironic if you know anything about the early days of hockey.

Modern-day goaltending techniques and the slapshot can both be traced back to the Coloured Hockey League, an all-black ice hockey league that existed from 1895-1930 in the Maritime Provinces of Canada.

Most Americans know how black history fits in with baseball, but I doubt even many hockey fans know about the black influence on the game of hockey (I didn’t prior to a couple weeks ago).

If you’re someone who would tell the hockey player in the commercial that he’s “in the wrong sport,” remember the impact that black players have had on the game.

And if you’re a minority in some way or another who plays hockey (or any sport), if you love it, keep playing, and to use Powerade’s words, “power through.”