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BLACK ICE (2023)

Release Date: 07/14/23

Studio: Roadside Attractions

"Black Ice exposes a history of racism in hockey through the untold stories of Black hockey players, both past and present, in a predominantly white sport."


Hockey fans live for the essence of the game. For the speed of that slapshot. The race for the puck. The crash into the boards. The sound of the horn. Fans dig into on-ice adversity. The New York Blue Shirts versus Philadelphia Orange. Edmonto’s unstoppable strength going against an insurmountable Tampa defense. Yet as one city’s colors clash against another's, what is hidden from the spotlight is the challenge of diversity; something that is facefront for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) hockey players. The documentary Black Ice is a call to action in confronting the racist patterns embedded within the game while striving for a better, inclusive future. 


Black Ice is directed by Hubert Davis, produced by a star-studded band that includes LeBron James, Maverick Carter, and rappers Drake and Future, and features interviews with P.K. Subban (defenseman for the Canadiens, Devils, and now with ESPN), Kevin Weekes (goalie with the Rangers, Devils, and also with ESPN), and Willie O’Ree, the first Black player in the National Hockey League. The documentary is a well-told story full of questioning, suffering, and absolutely demands telling. 


Black Ice also has a difficult time rising out of the negative instances told within, drowning out any triumphant moments worthy of celebration.


The docu chronicles the Coloured Hockey League, a league that played between the late 19th century through the 1930s, and originated both the slapshot and the goalie knee drop. Time is spent with Akim Aliu, a former player from the Flames who endured severe racially-based hazing, and slurs from coach Bill Peters; Silver medallist Saroya Tinker recounts becoming a chameleon in order to blend in with white teammates; and winger Wayne Simmons (Kings, Flyers, Leafs), who disgustingly once had a banana thrown at him during an exposition match in Detroit. 


The documentary takes its time in exposing a toxic culture of racism within the sport while influencing the younger generation into being better humans - and better hockey players. And this is time well spent. Blake Bolden successfully becomes a scout for the Kings. The achievements of Herb Carnegie, tragically considered one of the greatest players never to make the NHL, are honored. However, far too little of it goes to acclaiming the current diversity within the sport.


Willie O’Ree, the Jackie Robinson of Hockey, has become the inspiration of so many BIPOC hockey players but his triumphs are never discussed. Matt Dumba’s (Wild) interview did not celebrate his win of the King Clancy award for founding the Hockey Diversity Alliance, an initiative dedicated to eradicating systemic racism and intolerance in hockey. 


Other incredibly large absences in the movie include mentions of Grant Fuhr, the NHL’s first Black goaltender (Oilers) and (shockingly!) Jarome Iginla (Flames) who is the all-time leader in goals, points, and games played for Calgary, and the first Black player to win both the Art Ross Trophy (leading point scorer) and the Rocket Richard Trophy (leading goal scorer). Wayne Simmonds receives ample screen time to talk about the checkered past and a hopeful future, yet does not get a victory lap as the first Black player to be awarded the NHL All-Star Game MVP.

Black Ice tells a compelling and necessary story full of justified sadness and head-shaking disbelief. The movie does end on a positive note by playing towards a hopeful future on the nearby horizon. Such positively is not properly balanced throughout. And as any hockey player will tell you, balance is what you need when playing on the ice.

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