I was honored to participate in the U.S. premiere of Soul On Ice: Past, Present, and Future, a fabulous film by Damon Kwame Mason. His film tells many of the important stories, sacrifices and contributions of black hockey players, including Willie O’Ree, who on this date (Jan. 18) in 1958 became the first black player in the NHL.
Also included in the documentary is Mike Marson, whom the Capitals drafted in the second round in 1974, the franchise’s first NHL draft. Unfortunately it took more than 16 years for someone to follow Willie’s lead, but Mike did, becoming just the second black player in the NHL when he played in the first game in Washington Capitals history.
Sadly, I haven’t met Mike, but I would like to and plan to invite him to join us for a game. As a society and a league, we have come a long way since 1974, and I would like Mike to be closer to the Capitals family.
Later joining Mike on the Capitals during the inaugural season was Bill Riley, the third black player in NHL history. Bill played only one game in that season, but then spent parts of three seasons (1976-77, 1977-78 and 1978-79) with us in the NHL.
In 1988 the Capitals selected Reggie Savage in the first round, and he made his NHL debut in 1991, but a knee injury the following day in practice ended his season. He would come back the following year, scoring his first NHL goal on a penalty shot.
The Soul On Ice premiere gave me an opportunity to catch up with Anson Carter, who has been back to D.C. on several occasions. Anson was an executive producer for Soul On Ice and admitted that before this film, he didn’t really know the history of black players in the NHL. He summed up the documentary best, stating it focuses on celebration, evolution and telling the story that no one really knew.
Prior to the screening, we held a panel discussion that was moderated by Kevin Weeks and included myself, Commissioner Bettman and Kwame. When the documentary concluded, Kevin, Anson, Willie and Kwame answered questions from the audience. It was an educational and entertaining evening.
Here is our Monumental Network coverage of the premiere – watch here. I also encourage you to visit the Soul On Ice website: www.soulonicemovie.com/ You also can watch the movie trailer here and read more about the premiere here.