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Christopher Stuart Taylor

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How the NHL Won (and Lost) a New (Black) Fan

Posted: 10/04/2013 1:20 pm

I'm Canadian. I like sports. I like hockey.

I also happen to be Black.

By all means that last statement should be irrelevant since athleticism is (arguably) one of the few "colour-blind" activities in society. But, to borrow a line from the Wu-Tang Clan, "(colour) rules everything around me."

So it's opening night for the NHL and I'm a self-declared Subbanist. I believe in what P.K., Malcolm, Jordan, and most importantly their father, Karl, have brought, and most importantly are bringing, to the NHL.

Yes, they are not the first, nor will they be the last Black NHL players to lace up on a Saturday night. But for me, as a fellow Black West Indian second-generation Canadian that grew up in Southern Ontario as a child of educators, the Subban story really hits home.

If by any means Gary Bettman is reading this post, please add a few extra dollars to the Subbans' respective paycheques since they brought in at least one new fan.

That is until I watched P.K.'s teammate, George Parros, get wheeled off the ice on a stretcher.

I won't get into a diatribe about fighting in hockey. It's been done. However, what I will say is that if the NHL and Bettman are serious about getting a new (Black/"non-White") demographic interested in the game, they need to do something.

P.K. and his brothers are not only hockey players, but they are Black hockey players. P.K.'s persona and charisma are unlike that of other NHL players -- one can argue that he is more LeBron than Wayne.

Considering the NHL is desperate to compete for American viewers against the NFL and NBA, P.K.'s "trans-sport"/"trans-race" identity, and most importantly his marketability, should not be understated. Many new (Black) fans tuning in to watch P.K. for the first time were probably turned away from the sport after thinking they watched a man die on the ice.

If David Stern cracked down on the NBA after the "Malice in the Palace," and Roger Goodell has turned the NFL into the "No Fun League," so why is Bettman still letting grown men fight to the death and calling it "a part of the game"?

If I wanted a (Black) fighting role model, I would stick with the UFC and Jon "Bones" Jones.

 

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