Two Nova Scotia brothers will face each other Saturday in a commemorative game to mark the 128th anniversary of the Colored Hockey League.
Percy Paris and John Paris Jr. will be the honorary coach in the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes Memorial Game, which will be held at the RBC Center in Dartmouth.
The league, which saw teams from across the Maritimes play primarily on lakes and outdoor courts, began in 1895.
Almost 130 years later, all-black players will suit up as members of the Halifax Eurekas and Dartmouth Jubilees – the two teams that will play in the first official CHL game.
The first match ended in a draw. This year, bragging rights will be on the line, as the teams celebrate the CHL and Black contributors to Canada’s game.
Information morning – NS8:21Paris brothers coach Colored Hockey League memorial game
The Paris brothers believe this is the first time two Black siblings have coached opposing teams outside the CHL.
“I never would have thought we’d have that opportunity in our lifetime anyway,” Paris Jr. said. to CBC Radio’s Information Morning Nova Scotia on Friday.
“Most families never have that, regardless of sport, so it’s going to be a nice one and I’ll have fun … watching him do his thing and I’ll do mine.”
The brothers grew up playing hockey in Windsor, NS, which is considered the birthplace of the sport.
Paris Jr. said they never considered themselves black hockey players, just hockey players.
“We just played hockey like the other kids did, like our dad taught us to do … we already knew what color we were, but we played the game simply because it was a game that kids played, adults played, the fans loved .” he said.
Paris played for the Saint Mary’s Huskies and formed part of the first all-black line in Canadian university and collegiate hockey.
He said the sport has come a long way, but the culture itself still needs to change.
He said he tried to diversify the sport while employed at Dalhousie University in Halifax in the 1990s, by offering personal and professional development to Hockey Canada, the National Hockey League and the Canadian Hockey League, to no avail.
“We recognized over 30 years ago that there are things about the hockey culture that needed to change and that inclusion was never part of their game plan to the extent it should be.”
Advice for players
Paris Jr., who was the first black coach in professional hockey, has decades of coaching experience.
His brother, however, said he recognizes that he doesn’t have much.
To compensate, Paris said he has a surprisingly “motivational, highly skilled person” to meet his players before the game.
Although the game is just for bragging rights, Paris Jr. urged. the players to try their best and enjoy their time on the ice.
“Instead of worrying about scoring a ton of goals, worrying about being the best you can be while playing, be happy,” Paris Jr. said.
Paris also encouraged the young athletes to take the game seriously as a sign of respect.
“Whatever the score, whatever the score at the end of the game, I don’t think anybody is going to care who won because there would be no losers,” he said.
“And I think we’re just going to go out there, we’re going to have fun and we’re going to pay tribute to those who are here now and certainly those who have gone before us.”
The match starts at 19.00. Admission is free, but donations to the Black Youth Ice Hockey Program are welcome.
For more stories about the experiences of black Canadians – from anti-black racism to success stories in the black community – check out Being Black in Canadaa CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.