Two brothers from Nova Scotia will face each other on Saturday in a commemorative game to mark the 128th anniversary of the Colored Hockey League.
Percy Paris and John Paris Jr. are honorary coaches in the Colored Hockey Series of the Maritimes Memorial Game, which will be held at the RBC Center in Dartmouth.
The series, which saw teams from all over the Maritimes playing mainly on lakes and outdoor rinks, began in 1895.
Almost 130 years later, all-Black players will suit up as members of the Jubilee Halifax Eurekas and Dartmouth — the two teams that will play in the first official CHL game.
That first game ended in a tie. This year, bragging rights will be on the line, as the teams celebrate the CHL and Black contributors in the Canadian game.
Morning Information – NS8:21Paris brothers coach Color Hockey League anniversary game
The Paris brothers believe this is the first time two Black brothers have coached an opposing Black team, outside of the CHL.
“I never thought we’d have that opportunity in our lives anyway,” Paris Jr. said. with CBC Radio’s Nova Scotia News Morning Friday.
“Most families never have that, regardless of the sport, so it’s going to be fun and I’m going to have fun … watching him do his thing and I’ll do mine.”
The brothers grew up playing hockey in Windsor, NS, considered the birthplace of the sport.
Paris Jr. said. that they never considered themselves black hockey players, but hockey players.
“We were playing hockey just like the other kids, the way our father taught us to do it…we already knew what color we were but we were playing the game because it’s a game the kids played, the adults played, the fans loved,” he said.
Paris played for the St. Mary’s Huskies and was part of the first all-Black lineup in Canadian university and collegiate hockey.
He said that the sport has come a long way, but that there is still a need to change the culture itself.
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 not part of their game plan for as long as it should have been.”
Advice for players
Paris Jr., who was the first Black coach in professional hockey, has years of experience.
His brother, on the other hand, said he recognizes that he doesn’t have that much.
In return, Paris said that he has surprised “a motivational, highly skilled individual” to meet his players before the game.
Although the game is only for bragging rights, Paris Jr encouraged the players to do their best and enjoy their time on the ice.
“Instead of worrying about scoring a ton of goals, worry 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.
“No matter what the score is, no matter what the score is at the end of the game, I don’t think anyone will care who wins because there would be no losers,” he said.
“And I think we’re going to go out there, we’re going to have fun and we’re going to honor those who are here now and certainly those who have gone before us.”
The game will start at 7pm AT. Admission is free but donations to the Black Youth Hockey Program are welcome.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians – from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community – check out Being Black in CanadaCBC project Black Canadians can be proud. You can read more stories here.