Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Professional Hockey


224 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-894663-58-6
DDC 796.962'092'396071





Reviewed by Ian A. Andrews

Ian A. Andrews is editor of the New Brunswick Teachers’ Association’s Focus and co-author of Becoming a Teacher.


Cecil Harris, the only black journalist covering professional hockey in
the NHL, has had to endure the stereotypical question: “What is a
black man doing in a white man’s game?” And so have the black
athletes whose careers are featured in Breaking the Ice. Harris, like
his main characters, is aware of the not always subtle racism that
people of colour in a predominantly white milieu have been forced to
endure. But endure they have—some, like Grant Fuhr, to become one of
the best goalies in the game and the first black Hockey Hall of Fame
member, and others, like Jerome Iginla and Anson Carter, to become
international stars.

This is the first comprehensive look at the professional careers of
black hockey players. The careers and backgrounds of each black person
who made the top league, the NHL, are examined, and in every case the
struggle for acceptance on an uneven playing field is documented. A case
is made for Herb Carnegie, the first genuine black star, to be inducted
into the Hall of Fame—a case supported by such members as Jean
Beliveau and Frank Mahovlich. In 1958, the first to break the colour
barrier in the NHL, Fredericton’s Willie O’Rea, concealed his
blindness in one eye in order to play for the Boston Bruins, a decade
after Jackie Robinson had done the same in baseball. Even today, Harris
notes, “too many hockey men … simply have not come to grips with
their latent racism.”

More a study of the human condition than simply a hockey book, Breaking
the Ice is highly recommended.


Harris, Cecil., “Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Professional Hockey,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 20, 2024,