Winnipeg Jets v San Jose Sharks

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The National Anthem protest may have been taken up by another league.

But San Jose Sharks’ forward Joel Ward—one of roughly 30 black players out of over 700 in the NHL— isn’t sure yet.  Ward would be the first in his league to take a knee if he decides to do so, of course.

“It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out. I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence. I haven’t really sat down to think about it too much yet, but I definitely wouldn’t say no to it,” Ward said when asked if he’d consider taking a knee during the anthem.

With Ward making history as the first NHL player to speak out and possibly take a knee, here are a few things you should about the San Jose Shark.

He’s Experienced Racism Around The League

Edmonton Oilers v San Jose Sharks - Game Six

Source: Rocky W. Widner/NHL / Getty

With Hockey being a dominantly white sport, it didn’t take Ward long to start feeling uncomfortable in the locker rooms.

“I had no clue what the words meant until my parents educated me about what was going on in my surroundings. I was just a kid who fell in love with the game and picked up a hockey stick,” Ward said. “As I got older and looked across the locker rooms and dressings rooms, I realized I’m the only black kid in the whole arena.”

He Wears 42 Because Of Jackie Robinson

Edmonton Oilers v San Jose Sharks - Game Six

Source: Rocky W. Widner/NHL / Getty

A hockey reporter once gave Ward a copy of Jackie Robinson’s biography and he was hooked, despite not even being a baseball fan.

“And right away, I was just intrigued about the whole story,” said Ward. “When I came to D.C., I got a chance to kind of change my number and pick a different number, and I definitely wanted to pay tribute.”

Ward even got a chance to speak at an advanced screening of 42, the film about Robinson’s life.

He Was Born & Raised In Canada

San Jose Sharks v Edmonton Oilers - Game Five

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Ward was born and raised in Canada, the unofficial home of long cold winters and ice hockey. He was the child of immigrants from Barbados. Growing up in North York, Ontario his mom Cecilia was a nurse and his father was a car mechanic. His brother Julian was also a hockey player, but Joel was the only one that stuck to it.

He Wants Willie O’Ree’s Number Retired

First Negro in National Hockey League

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Willie O’Ree was the first Black man to make it into the NHL, and Ward believes that monumental feat calls for O’Ree’s number 22 jersey to be retired. Now 80, O’Ree made his debut with the Boston Bruins on January 18, 1958. He’d play just two games that year than another 43 games in the 1960-61 season.

 

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