I've been privately wondering to myself how long it would be before the media anointed Calgary Flames superstar Jerome Iginla the Tiger Woods of hockey. Tiger Woods, a black man in a sport long dominated by white men, has been regarded as the best golfer on the planet for the past several years. Jerome Iginla, a black man in a sport long dominated by white men, won the Art Ross Trophy, Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award in 2001-02 and now has his team within two wins of the Stanley Cup.
Recently, Iginla's name has surfaced in numerous articles alongside that of Tiger Woods, including this article from yesterday's New York Times. It was inevitable really. Only 14 athletes of colour played in the NHL this season and none, other than perhaps Grant Fuhr, have ever reached the superstar level Iginla has these past few years. It's worth noting that Iginla is the first non-white team captain in NHL history. The articles I've been reading that compare Iginla to Woods make a big deal out of the marketing opportunity this presents to the NHL and the potential for more and more non-white children to pick up a hockey stick and embrace this wonderful game on ice.
I'm a huge Jerome Iginla fan. He plays a style I respect, helped Team Canada win the gold in Salt Lake City and plays for a team I have no ill feelings towards. He also scored a Gordie Howe hat trick last night (goal, assist, fight) and you've got to love any player who scores a Howe in the Stanley Cup finals. I see a great Canadian hockey player doing what great Canadian hockey players do. It never crosses my mind that his skin is darker than Wayne Gretzky's. Nothing could me more irrelevant.
If all goes well, the Calgary Flames will win the Stanley Cup and we'll all get to see #12 hoisting the most coveted trophy in sports. It's an image I can't wait to witness and one that will inspire thousands of children across this great country, be they black, white, purple, yellow or green.
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