BY SAMUEL JOHNSON
SPECIAL TO THE
A new Canadian documentary looks at the history of Black athletes in ice hockey. The film, “Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future,’’ by Kwame Mason, made its Tampa premiere last week at the Gasparilla International Film Festival.
Mason explores a unique, almost hidden, history that Black North American athletes created by joining a league together. Mason said it was the first of its kind.
“Hockey is the very first sport that we organized to play together,’’ he said.
This was known as the Colored Hockey League of Nova Scotia (Canada). To put that into context, the league was founded in 1895, lasted until 1930, had up to 12 different teams and encompassed around 400 African-Canadian players.
Lindo’s path highlighted
But it’s not just a history of bygone players. As the title implies, it weaves the past and the present into a fabric that will cloak the future of ice hockey.
Jaden Lindo is at the center of the film’s narrative. The viewer is afforded an intimate look into how Lindo pursues his dream of being drafted by, and ultimately playing in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Interspersed between segments of his quest, Mason’s film delves into the history of trailblazing icons and current Black hockey players. Names might be familiar to some ice hockey fans but probably not to a casual ice hockey fan. Nonetheless, Lindo’s journey is not unlike numerous other Black athletes who struggled with making it all the way to the NHL.
A full capacity theater of nearly 200 in Tampa heard Mason explain the difficult three years it took to make the film – his first.
In the process of researching, filming and editing, Mason had to sell his apartment in order to continue financing the project. At one point during a question-and-answer session after the screening, he became tearful.
He was recalling a conversation he had with his mother shortly before she died of cancer. Mason said his mother encouraged him to complete the film. His fascination with the Colored Hockey League of Nova Scotia initially motivated his research for the film.
Aspiring other players
Mason said a take away from the film is the function of role models for aspiring hockey players of color.
“(They) also have that responsibility. Because there’s that kid in some small town, that’s the only one. And he wants to make it to the NHL or go as far as he possibly can,’’ Mason explained.
“Sometimes the road’s a little difficult. For guys like J.T. Brown, it’s great for them to be able to show these kids that, you know what, just dig deep and you’re not alone. You may be going through things, but we went through things as well. Here’s how we got through them.”
The film makes a bold prediction – a predication echoed by many of the people interviewed in the documentary. The ex-hockey players and the sports pundits nearly all suggested that within 10 years there could be an all-Black starting roster for an NHL team.
J.T. Brown, an African-American hockey player with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and his wife were both in attendance. Brown grew up in the hockey state of Minnesota.
Brown said he lives and breathes hockey but this film opened his eyes “to see through another person’s perspective through his movie, to be able to see the stories that haven’t been told.’’
“I’ve been playing this game for quite a long time, but there are stories that Kwame told that I had never heard of,’’ he remarked.
For more information on the documentary, visit www.soulonicemovie.com.