Trials of an Only One in the sport of hockey

Only-OneThis column continues the Only One series in which this reporter shares his experiences as the only African American journalist on the scene.

We virtually spent a no-diversity weekend at the NHL Stadium Series game, staged for the first time in Minnesota and at the University of Minnesota football stadium. Following is our account set to 1970s hit songs.

1st act

“How Long” (Ace, 1974) — “I am not quite as dumb as it seems”

All last weekend, we either got “We don’t see you,” “All Blacks look alike” (that’s why you get called by someone else’s name), and other cultural conditioning reactions as the only Black reporter in the Gopher press box.


2nd act

“What a Fool Believes” (Doobie Brothers, 1978) — “Never coming near what he wanted to say.”

Despite the fact that the MSR is the only Twin Cities weekly newspaper that regularly covers pro sports in this town, including hockey, this legacy publication still had to jump through hoops with an NHL person in charge of credentials for the Stadium Series.

“It’s our understanding that the NHL would like to reach out to communities of color,” responded my editor after receiving one of several emails from the aforementioned person.

Said the league person, “I’d imagine getting content about diversity could happen at any of the 41 (Minnesota Wild) home games…the last NHL-related post on your site is dated Oct. 14. The amount of media that come out of the woodwork just because they want to ‘attend’ the event…under the guise of covering the event…”

One wonders if the Mpls St. Paul Magazine, whose assigned seat next to ours was vacant all weekend, had to jump through similar hoops as we had to before finally being approved for one credential. Did the monthly lifestyle magazine fall under the “out of the woodwork” category? Did they received similar “coverage gap” website scrutiny as the MSR?

This reporter never responded to any of the emails sent from the NHL, so as the Doobies sang, I never came near to saying what I wanted to say to that person.


3rd act

“Do It Again” (Steely Dan, 1972) — “Go back, Jack, and do it again”

Whether inside or out, finding Black fans at local NHL games remains a haystack search experience. A Black stadium worker told us that more than likely more Blacks would’ve attended if a football or basketball game was similarly scheduled last weekend at the Gopher stadium.

We did find a couple of Black fans — one spoke to us and is featured in this week’s “Another View.”

The question is how much the NHL in general, and the Wild in particular, make a serious, concerted effort to draw more Blacks in other than during Black History Month photo opportunities.


4th act

“I’ll Be Around” (Spinners, 1974) — “This is our fork in the road”

I first attended a hockey game as a preteen in Detroit. I grew up watching “Hockey Night in Canada.” I regularly cover men’s and women’s college hockey, the latter as the Gophers’ longest tenured reporter. I’ve covered my share of NHL games as well, including the 2004 NHL All-Star Game in St. Paul.

But after all these years, we still get intruder-like stares from virtually all White media and staffers whenever I am in a hockey press box or when I’m a weekend Only One at the Gopher football stadium.

Like the Spinners’ hit, they all should get over it, because I’ll be around again to give the place a little color.


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