Celebrating Black History Month will no longer be kept on ice in the National Hockey League.
For the first time, the NHL will celebrate Black History Month and will be launching a campaign to emphasize racial diversity in hockey this February.
The initiative includes a traveling museum devoted to the history of minorities in hockey. To kick off the month, the museum will debut outside Madison Square Garden in New York over the weekend.
The NHL will also have a gender-equality month in March and has plans to honor Hispanic heritage and “First Nations” during similar campaigns next season.
Despite having strong minority representation at youth levels of hockey, there are only about 20 black players currently on NHL rosters.
“I think a focus like this during Black History Month will affirm those many kids of color that are already playing our game,” said league executive vice president Kim Davis. “I think we often underestimate the pipeline of talent that is already involved in our game.”
Referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of ice hockey,” Willie O’Ree became the first black player to take the ice in the NHL when he made his debut for the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958.
O’Ree, who has was worked as a diversity ambassador and director of youth development for the NHL since 1996.