Saturday, 2018 Stanley Cup champion Devante Smith-Pelly attended the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival to see the premiere of Black Ice.
The film is a Canadian documentary that chronicles the history of the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes as well as the lingering anti-black racism in the sport of ice hockey. It boasts Drake, LeBron James, and Maverick Carter as producers.
Our special guests for the premiere of #BlackIce at @TIFF_NET ✨🎬@43_Kadri | @matt_dumba | @smithpelly23 | @aduclair10 | @PKSubban1 | @Dreamer_Aliu78 | @nursey16 | @nursey16 | @Simmonds17 | @Cory_Joe | @FredVanVleet pic.twitter.com/V6WSRshOy9
— UNINTERRUPTED Canada 🇨🇦 (@UNCanada) September 11, 2022
DSP joined a bevy of former and current NHL players in attendance, including Nazem Kadri, Matt Dumba, Anthony Duclair, PK Subban, Akim Aliu, and Wayne Simmonds. Olympic gold medalist Sarah Nurse and NBA players Cory Joseph and Fred VanVleet were also present.
“I think there’s so much rich history with black players playing the game and I think that’s really going to be showcased,” Nurse told The Shift. “But, also highlighting some current players is going to be huge. Akim (Aliu) kinda starting a revolution is what really sparked a lot of this.”
Aliu has been courageously outspoken about his experience with racism both at the junior level in Canada and in the American Hockey League. He co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance in 2020, alongside Evander Kane, to address intolerance and racism in hockey.
“I just hope (the film) tells a story that people don’t know about,” Aliu said. “The contributions of black people have been overlooked since the beginning of time. I think a lot of these stories people are going to be surprised about hearing and I think they’re necessary. I just hope this bleeds into society as a whole to think about what other contributions black people have had to our society and people of color as a whole. I’m hoping this is an educational video for a lot of people.”
Smith-Pelly himself was subject to racist abuse as a member of the Washington Capitals in 2018 during a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Several fans were ejected from United Center after chanting “basketball, basketball, basketball” at DSP while he was in the penalty box.
The “basketball” taunt had an obvious racist connotation. These were white hockey fans in Chicago telling one of the few black hockey players in the National Hockey League that he’s in the wrong sport. The implication being that hockey is a sport for white people, and maybe Smith-Pelly should be playing basketball, a sport for black people, instead. Hateful racism.
“I just want people to see that black people have always been a part of hockey,” Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds said. “We go all the way back to the 1800s so no matter how you try to slice it, we’ll always be a part of the hockey culture no matter what.”
Congrats to all involved in Black Ice for last night’s premiere!
This is an important film for all, especially those in hockey, to see. It shines a much-needed spotlight on the magnitude of work that needs to be done to combat racism & bigotry in our sport & society. pic.twitter.com/pHRRAEK0LM
— PWHPA (@PWHPA) September 11, 2022
Bell Media has exclusive Canadian distribution rights to the documentary, which will be carried on TSN, Crave and CTV platforms. Elevation Pictures will handle theatrical distribution in Canada. There is no information on any potential US or international distribution just yet.
Headline photo courtesy of @jtblumberg/Twitter
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