Arts featured Racism

Alex Kronstein reviews Ice breakers, a short documentary about Black hockey players then and now

Photo NFB

UPDATE – March 26, 2020: Ice Breakers is now available for viewing on the National Film Board of Canada’s YouTube channel and official website

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – At this summer’s 2019 FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, three new shorts were screened that were part of the National Film Board of Canada’s Re-Imagining Nova Scotia series.

Filmmaker Alex Kronstein went to see all three of them, and here is his review of Ice breakers, directed by Sandi Rankaduwa, about a rising teen hockey star from Cole Harbour who is Black and dreams of playing in the NHL.

Ice Breakers is about Josh Crooks, a rising teen hockey star from Cole Harbour who dreams of playing in the NHL.  It is no secret that there are very few Black hockey players in the professional leagues, and as Josh himself mentions in the film, he is the only Black kid he’s aware of who plays hockey.  Yet he is an elite player who can play at high levels.

Through hockey coach Lee Francis, Josh – and the audience – learn about the history of the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes, which lasted from 1895 until 1930.  This league pioneered many aspects of hockey that the white leagues did not, such as goalies being allowed to make saves, and inventing the slapshot (the slapshot was not invented in the NHL!).

In a particularly powerful moment, Josh and his father John visit the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame, where they soon discover that there appears to be absolutely nothing there on the Coloured Hockey League.  That is, until they notice a single picture of one of the league’s teams hidden among the other displays, to the point where it would be easy to miss.

Josh also discovers that his great-great-great-uncle was an all-star player in the Coloured Hockey League.  He later plays in the annual Black Ice Society commemorative game.Ultimately, Ice Breakers shows us that many of hockey’s foundational pillars are not white, and shows that athletes of colour are a major part of hockey’s legacy.

Photo NFB

See also: Alex Kronstein reviews I am Skylar

Alex Kronstein is the founder of Autistics United Nova Scotia, the local chapter of Autistics United Canada, a grassroots organization committed to raising the voices of Autistic people.   He is also the host of the podcast The NeurodiveCast, and is a documentary filmmaker with several films currently in development.

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