Shandor Alphonso never envisioned his hockey career taking him to officiating. He didn’t have to look far to see it was possible.
As a young, black player, all Alphonso had to do was watch “Hockey Night in Canada” or the Stanley Cup Final and he saw fellow minority Jay Sharrers working as a linesman.
“To be able to see someone who kind of looked like me working at the biggest stage of his job, it was unreal,” Alphonso said.
The 34-year-old Alphonso is the NHL’s only African-American official, and Calgary Flames assistant Paul Jerrard is the league’s only black coach. With the sport’s expansion to some nontraditional markets across the United States, there are almost two dozen black players in the NHL, but Sharrers, Alphonso and Jerrard serve as inspiration for more to follow into positions of authority.
“I think it’s an evolutionary process,” said Sharrers, who recently retired. “It’s definitely moved slowly, but I think when you just look at the amount of black players that are now in the league and the fact that that has increased, it would stand to reason that hopefully the opportunity for officials would present itself.”
Sixty years after Willie O’Ree of the Boston Bruins broke the colour barrier as the NHL’s first black player, the league is still taking steps to increase its diversity. Alphonso is an ambassador for the “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign this month, which is Black History Month.
Sharrers acknowledged the expense of playing hockey has been a hurdle for minority children for years, but said he is optimistic that more will not only lace up their skates but move into other roles.
“It just stands to …read more