While the American sports system has opened up as the decades have gone on, creating more diverse teams, some sports have yet to see the same change. One sport that has been primarily white-dominated is the NHL, where many teams can have a limited number of non-white members on their team. However, this week history was made as the Tampa Bay Lightning fielded Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith, and Daniel Walcott at the same time.
In doing so, they became the first team in NHL history to line-up with an all-black forward line. That was seen as a major stat, and was pointed out by Tampa broadcaster David Randorf. As one of the major sports in the America that is increasingly worried about the growth of MLS soccer, the NHL could use a win like this to try and bring in a more diverse viewing audience.
The game itself was an enjoyable one, but the achievement arguably took hold of the entire discussion. After the game, Joseph was asked about his views on making history like this, and he said: “Honestly, it was pretty awesome,
“[Anthony Duclair] started on the other side, too, and I thought it was great, man. I think it’s a step in the right direction and obviously you gotta thank the coaching staff for that, it was their call, but it was definitely fun to have some progress and clearly it’s a process over this, but seeing that, and I don’t know if it was the first, but I think it was great to see and I’m glad I was part of it.”
A great moment for change
While it comes as a shock that this has never happened until now when you factor in the diversity in other major US sports, it is a moment to celebrate for all across the country. Joseph has been the key player out of the three, with his appearance in 56 games so far and scoring 12 goals, with 19 points in total, making him the key contributor of the three.
The other duo, Smith and Walcott, are not regular starts on the roster for the Lightning. However, with injuries building up, they were called up to take part in the game. Smith has appeared five times in the season for Tampa, putting up a trio of assists. Walcott was making his NHL debut – and in doing so helped to complete a pretty impressive piece of history at the same time.
For the Lightning, the match-up was one to remember purely for the history. The team were trounced 4-0 on the evening, losing to the Florida Panthers. However, while the boxscore might not be one that Lightning fans will remember, the day their team became pioneers in the league for giving those three players the chance to make history will be one to truly remember.
Whatever happens now, this season will be a memorable one for fans of the Lightning for a few reasons.