Matt Dumba is one of two Black Canadians playing for the Minnesota Wild this season. The 20-year-old from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada was drafted seventh overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2012 NHL Draft and was called up from the minors in mid-January for the second time in as many seasons by the parent club.
According to Ranker.com, nearly 80 Blacks or “players of African descent” have played in the NHL. The league’s website noted, however, that between Willie O’Rea’s 1958 debut as its first Black player and 1991, just under 20 Blacks skated on an NHL roster.
The Wild has five Blacks, including Dumba, who have played on the team in its history. During a brief MSR interview, Dumba said he tries not to think about whether he’s playing well enough to finally stick with the Wild.
“As a young player, that is always something in the back of your head,” he admitted. “I want to suppress those thoughts and just focus on the game.”
Thus far, Dumba’s play has been impressive, getting about 18 minutes of ice time per game. A good ice shift for him is nearly a minute, said the defenseman.
“You know in the back of your mind when your internal clock goes off how long you have been out there. You try to have that high, intense level for about 40 seconds. Then you start looking for a change. You really feel it,” said Dumba.
Although hockey is Canada’s so-called national sport, “There are other sports in Canada,” explained Dumba. Growing up, “I played everything,” including basketball, soccer and football. “But I guess I am pretty good in hockey. My friends played hockey, and that’s where I found my passion.”
As in the States, hockey is expensive in Canada as well, said Dumba, who noted that early on he played with second-hand equipment. “I was fortunate enough to have my mom and dad sacrifice for me and my brother.”
Although he’s aware of the low number of U.S.-born Blacks in the sport, Dumba nonetheless advises young Blacks to try hockey. “It’s a great sport to teach character” and other skills, he said.
“Just have fun with it.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.