Blacks in Canadian Athletic History

In Canada, sport has been an important component of our culture. We celebrate our communities through sport as well as our shared stories.

Black Canadians have a rich sporting history that dates back to the 1800s. This timeline depicts some of the many stories of extraordinary Black athletes.;xNLx;;xNLx;Most of the Black athletes had to wage a personal battle for acceptance and respect. Some eventually received it while others never did. Facing racism and discrimination has been an unfortunate reality for almost all of them. How they dealt with that reality is what makes them unique. What seems to unite them, however, is their love of and passion for their particular sport. ;xNLx;;xNLx;In overcoming adversity and indifference, these Black athletes managed to leave a lasting mark upon sport in Canada and abroad in some cases. Their achievements helped instill Black pride and self-esteem and also served to improve the social inclusion of Blacks within Canadian society.;xNLx;;xNLx;Thanks to trailblazers like Sam Langford (boxing), Jackie Robinson (baseball), Willie O’Ree (hockey) and Angela Issajenko (track and field), they helped to pave the way for other Black athletes to follow and also achieve success, which has forever changed Canada’s sporting landscape. ;xNLx;;xNLx;Bob Dawson;xNLx;Sports Writer, Diversity Management Consultant and Black Hockey Historian;xNLx;

William Oliver

William Oliver is the first known Black person to play on a Canadian university hockey team -- Acadia University in Nova Scotia.

John Utendale - First Black player to sign with an NHL team

In 1955, John Utendale, from Edmonton, Alberta, was signed by the Detroit Red Wings. He never played for the Red Wings but did play in their farm system at the minor professional level.

Saint Mary’s All-Black Forward Line

The first all-Black forward line to play Canadian university hockey consisted of Bob Dawson, Darrell Maxwell, and Percy Paris, all from Nova Scotia. They played together in 1970 at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in what was then the Atlantic Intercollegiate Hockey League.

Darren Lowe, First Black National Team Captain and CIAU Head Hockey Coach

Darren Lowe of Toronto, Ontario, was the first Black player to be named captain of the Canadian Men's National Hockey Team that competed in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

Sam Richardson

Born in Toronto, Samuel Richardson competed for Canada in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Angella Taylor Issajenko

Angella Taylor Issajenko is one of Canada's best sprinters.

Sam Agee

Sam Agee of Dawson City, Yukon, played on the Renzoni Championship Hockey Team. He was the first Black person to play hockey in Canada's far north.

Larry Gains

Larry Gains from Toronto, Ontario, was one of the top heavyweight boxers in his time. He became the Champion of the Dominion of Canada and the British Empire.

Dave Downey, A Canadian Boxing Champion

Dave Downey of Halifax grew up in a family that produced three professional boxers. He held the Canadian Middleweight Championship from 1957 to 1970. After a defeat, he regained the title and successfully defended it three times. He was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1976.

George Godfrey

George Godfrey was a heavyweight boxer born 1853 in the Bog in Prince Edward Island. He left Canada for Boston and began boxing. Over his career, he fought over 100 matches. He won the World Colored Heavyweight Championship in 1883.

The Coloured Hockey League of The Maritimes (1895-1930)

The Coloured Hockey League of The Maritimes was an all - Black hockey league that began in 1895 and continued until about 1930.

Willie O'Ree, The Jackie Robinson of Hockey

Willie O’Ree was the first Black player in the NHL. Often called "the Jackie Robinson of hockey," he played a total of 43 games for the Boston Bruins.

Grant Fuhr

Born in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Grant Fuhr is the first Black goaltender to play in the NHL.

George Dixon

George Dixon from Africville, Nova Scotia, was the first Canadian-born Black boxing world champion.

Ray Downey

Boxer Raymond "Sugar Ray" Downey is Dave Downey's son. He is a Canadian bronze medalist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He won silver for Canada at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

Samuel E. Langford, The Boston Terror

Samuel "Sam" E. Langford is a boxing legend from Weymouth Falls, Nova Scotia. He was a five-time World Colored Heavyweight Champion between 1910 and 1918. At this time Black men were not allowed the opportunity to compete for the world title.

David Defiagbon

Nigerian-born David Defiagbon fought for Canada and won the heavyweight silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics. He won 180 matches with only 20 defeats.

Charles "Spider" Jones

Charles "Spider" Jones is a former Canadian professional boxer. He is a former three-time Golden Glove Champion and was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame in 1996.

Lennox Lewis

As an amateur, Lennox Lewis won a gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games. In 1989 he turned professional and won his first 21 fights before he knocked out Donovan Ruddock in 1992, which ranked him number one in the World Boxing Council rankings. He became undisputed champion when he defeated Evander Holyfield in 1999. He defeated Mike Tyson by knockout in 2002. He retired from boxing in 2004.

Black players locked out of the NHL from 1961-74

When Willie O'Ree made his debut with the NHL’s Boston Bruins in1958, many Blacks playing semi-professional and minor league hockey in the late 1950s and early 1960s thought that the door had finally opened for other Black players to enter the league. This, however, was not the case. When O'Ree left the Bruins in 1961, a Black player wouldn't play in the NHL again until 1974.

John Paris, Jr., Pro Hockey’s First Black Head Coach and GM

Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, John Paris, Jr. was the first Black head coach in professional hockey.

Jarome Iginla

Jarome Iginla is the former Captain of the Calgary Flames, and the team's all-time leader in goals, points, and games played. He has won two gold medals for Canada at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Olympics. He has had two 50-goal seasons, and is a 6-time NHL All-Star.

Dirk Graham, First Black NHL Captain and Head Coach

At the NHL level, Dirk Graham played the finest hockey of his career in Chicago with the Blackhawks.

Herb Carnegie

Herb Carnegie was a semi-professional hockey player that many believe had the skills and speed to play in the NHL.

Jamaal Magloire

Jamaal Magloire is a professional basketball player drafted 19th overall in the 2000 NBA draft after playing college ball with the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

Anthony Bennett

Anthony Harris Bennett is a Canadian professional basketball player who plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, becoming the first Canadian to be drafted number one overall

Paul Jones

Paul Jones is a Canadian sportscaster. He was the colour analyst on Raptors radio broadcasts during the team's inaugural season in 1995. He is currently the Raptors' radio play-by-play announcer.

Andrew Wiggins, Canada's Rising NBA Star

Andrew Wiggins is a Canadian professional basketball player who currently plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft, making him the second ever Canadian basketball player to be taken number one overall in the NBA draft.

Jackie Robinson

In 1946, the Montreal Royals signed Jackie Robinson, the first professional Black baseball player in the Triple-A minor league affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Montreal was chosen as the test bed for the desegregation of major league baseball. In that season, the Royals went on to win the Little World Series and Robinson became a hero in Montreal.

Fergie Jenkins

Born in Chatham, Ontario, Jenkins is the first Canadian admitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. He was invested into the Order of Canada and in 2010 Canada Post issued a commemorative stamp in his honour.

Cito Gastin - World Series Winning Coach

Clarence Edwin "Cito" Gaston managed the Toronto Blue Jays from 1989 to 1997 and again from 2008 to 2010.

Emery Barnes

Emery Barnes was a Louisiana-born football player who played for the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions the year of their 1964 Grey Cup victory.

Army Howard

Born in Winnipeg in 1889, John Armstrong "Army" Howard is Canada's first Black Olympian, competing in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Phil Edwards

Philip Aaron "Phil" Edwards was a middle-distance track and field athlete nicknamed "the man of bronze" for his five Olympic bronze medals.

Ray Lewis

Raymond Gray "Ray" Lewis was the first Canadian-born Black Olympic medalist.

Harry Jerome

Henry "Harry" Winston Jerome was a legendary track and field runner born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and raised in Vancouver, B.C.

Bruny Surin

Born in Haiti, Bruny Surin, won a gold medal in the 4x100 metres relay at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Milton Ottey

Born in Jamaica, Milton Bruce "Milt" Ottey was the number one ranked high jumper in the world in 1982. He is a seven time Canadian National High Jump Champion.

Mike Marson

Mike Marson of Toronto is the first Black player to be drafted and to play in the NHL after the league's 13-year lockout of Blacks from 1961 to 1974.

Bryant McBride - First Black NHL Executive

Bryant McBride is the first Black executive to work for the NHL. An American by birth, he was raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Jay Sharrers - First Black NHL Referee

Born in Jamaica and raised in Vancouver, Jay Sharrers, who worked 642 NHL games as a linesman, became the NHL’s first Black referee.

P.K. Subban, One of the NHL's Top Defensemen

Pernell Karl "P.K." Subban is a defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens. He was drafted in 2007 in the second round.

Kevin Weekes

Born and raised in Toronto, Kevin Weekes was a goalie with the New Jersey Devils. He is now a colour commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a studio analyst for NHL on the Fly. He is the first Black national TV hockey analyst and colour commentator.

Angela James

Angela James was called the "Wayne Gretsky of women's hockey." Born in Toronto, she grew up playing on boys hockey teams because there were no girls teams. Beginning in the late 1970s, she played in the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. She was the lead scorer in eight seasons and most valuable player in six. She led her team to numerous OWHA league and provincial championships.

Charmaine Crooks

Charmaine Crooks won a silver medal with Canada's 4x400 relay at the 1984 L.A. games. Born in Mandeville, Jamaica, she has won gold for Canada at the Commonwealth, Pan American, and World Student Games.

Daniel Igali

Baraladei Daniel Igali is a Canadian freestyle wrestler who won gold for Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney in the 69 kg class. He won silver in the 74 kg class at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Donovan Bailey

Donovan Bailey is the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal in the 100m sprint (1996 Atlanta).

Ben Johnson

Born in Jamaica, Ben Johnson, succeeded in breaking the world record time with his new world record time of 9.84 seconds in the 100 meter dash at the 1996 Olympic Games. This earned him his first Olympic gold and the title, "world’s fastest man".

The "Black Aces"

The senior level Buffalo Ankerite team of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association featured the first all Black line in semi-professional hockey in the 1940s.

Razor Ruddock

Jamaican-born Razor Ruddock is a heavyweight boxer in the 1980s and early 1990s.

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