In a sport that is has a percentage less than 5 percent for black players, “Soul On Ice: Past, Present, & Future,” seeks to find out why that is the issue and highlights those who have paved the way for those who have dared to excel in a different sport. The passion project created by hockey fanatic Kwame Damon Mason is perfect for a league that is actually starting to see more diversity, despite the statistic above.
“Soul On Ice” excellently addresses the issue in the film while also informing the audience about the history makers for black players in hockey. The title accurately shows how the documentary is organized as it begins the past portion in the 1890’s with the Coloured Hockey League , one of the more excited and popular leagues in Nova Scotia at the time. The League was credited with influencing aspects of today’s game, including slapshots and a more physical goaltender.
The story of Herbert H. Carnegie was also included because he represents what could have been for black players. Carnegie was shut out of the NHL because he was kept out of the league for years and then was not offered a well-paying contract from the New York Rangers minor league system in 1948. It took ten years after Carnegie’s refusal for a black player named Willie O’Ree to finally break the color barrier.
Each person interviewed in the movie offers great stories about the topic of the movie and how much racial stereotypes have changed and even how little it has. Hockey fans can see players from different eras of the game, including classic greats like O’Ree, the first African-American Val James, legendary Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr, goalie and NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, and many present stars like Wayne Simmonds. Each has a different but similar perspective on why they chose this sport and how they chose to ignore what everyone else thought.
The film includes a darker theme that mentions racism on the ice that these players faced as young children. This scene can be a little hard to watch and confirms the issue of under representation in the sport because a racist culture is hurting black players from doing a sport they love.
Hope rings throughout the documentary because the story of Jaden Lindo, a black player in the OHL, trying to get drafted is shown as the heart of the film. Lindo represents the future of black players by never giving into the pressure of quitting the sport for something more “traditional” like football or basketball.
The film breaks the mold once again by including hip-hop music to go with each transition in the story and creates a new “traditional” for hockey.
Small segments show the future of the sport including one young black player in the Pee Wee Leagues playing for fun and enjoying himself. Simple moments like this give the movie the “soul” that it promises on the title.
Diversity in a typically white sport is important to address in today’s society where the faces of popular sports are changing from what they looked like decades ago. This movie is perfect for February, which is both Black History Month and Hockey is For Everyone Month, and should be watched by even non-sports fans because it contains stories that are not heard enough. “Soul On Ice” offers a fresh perspective on diversity and delivers hope for the present and for the future of hockey and our society.
Movie can be found here: