A largely unknown and traditionally hidden part of Canadian Hockey history is finally getting some of the proper respect and honor it deserves.
Almost thirty years before Montreal Canadiens star Bernard Boom Boom Geoffrion was born, a black Nova Scotian named Eddie Martin was firing off slapshots in the little-known Colored Hockey League, says hockey historian George Fosty.Here's more on the book.... Black Ice.
Martin, a baseball player-turned-skater for the Halifax Eurekas, was known for his vicious, full-windup shot in 1903 - long before Geoffrion claimed to have invented the slapshot as a youngster.
"We're looking at (Martin) as maybe one of the early innovators of the slapshot," said Fosty, co-author of Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925.
It's a suggestion that would be met with surprise - or maybe cries of blasphemy - by the average die-hard hockey fan. But it's just one nugget that Fosty, a British Columbia-born writer and historian, uncovered as he dug into a dusty corner of hockey history that has gone largely unrecognized.
"There's 300 (black) players that played serious hockey prior to 1958 that nobody knows about," said Fosty. "It's time to say, Hey, we've missed something here."
Fosty and others hope to bring some of that history to light with the first Black Ice Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame conference, running today through Sunday at Dartmouth Sportsplex [...]
Besides Martin and his slapshot, a three-foot-six goaltender named Henry Braces Franklin of the Dartmouth Jubilee is the first documented goalie to play a down-on-the-ice style, Fosty said.
The historian admits he was skeptical of some of the stories he uncovered. But as he dove deeper into black history - the kind unrecorded by most mainstream, white historians - his outlook began to change.
"(At first) I believed it had to be wrong because it didn't jibe with the modern interpretation," Fosty said. "But I've learned it's often our traditional history that we've accepted that is wrong.
"I thought, I'm going to start looking at this a lot more seriously. There's obviously something here that hasn't been addressed."
Combining their research with newspaper accounts of the games and old posters hawking the contests, the brothers tell the story of a league made up of the sons and grandsons of runaway American slaves who settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the 1800s and built a small but thriving community. The teams had names that reflected black pride and self-determination -- The Halifax Eurekas, the Dartmouth Jubilees, and the Africville Sea-Sides. Others had religious names, a nod to the role the black church played in forming the teams and the league. "It would be the ministers and the deacons of the area Baptist churches who would, by their very presence, give the black community and the Colored Hockey League upstanding role models and organizational talent, never before seen in black sport," the Fostys write.I think it's great to see these trailblazing black athletes of Canadian Hockey finally beginning to be recognized and saluted for the many contributions they made to this great sport.
"We personally think that the league was on the verge of a major breakthrough around 1905-06," George Fosty says. "You've got games with 1,500-1,600 fans, for the black games. It was mostly whites who went to the games. That was seen as threatening to the status quo. By 1911, the league basically began to crumble."