I’ll start by telling you about the production companies that brought this documentary to life. The SpringHill Company is one that brings together companies started by LeBron James and Maverick Carter. Their brand is called UNINTERRUPTED. TSN is also involved in this. Let’s call them the ESPN of Canada.
Black Ice is an award-winning documentary that reveals the racism in hockey. Male and female players tell their stories of dealing with it and what’s most shocking is that this has never stopped, even not giving black players credit where and when it’s due. Like golf, it was always seen as a white man’s sport.
Near the start of the film, it’s mentioned that Canadians don’t like to recognize the racism that happened in their country. America was where genuine racism was, not across their borders! Welp, that wasn’t the case. Racism was everywhere and hockey was where you could find it most. It was primarily exposed in Toronto and Nova Scotia, but no matter where every locker room was filled with it. Those who disagreed with the taunting, calling black players the N-Word or making monkey noises at them, turned their back, saying nothing to anyone about what they constantly witnessed. These kids and their parents tried their best to prove themselves worthy and to build a rapport with the others, but the adults were just as bad, if not worse. There was no winning of their approval.
As the film continues, we meet several athletes who experienced it firsthand, then and still now. Everyone has almost the exact same story. They played hockey between the ages of three and five, fell in love with the sport forever the moment their skates hit the ice and decided they could do nothing else but play professionally someday.
You meet many players, but Akim Aliu is one of the main subjects. Before the age of thirty, he had already had thirteen surgeries. He can’t play but isn’t sure he’s going to be able to walk soon either because of what he gave to the game. His career was very short, and there was no lack of people making fun of him because he was black. He always felt that people were trying to make him so uncomfortable that he had no choice but to leave the game on his own.
P.K. Subban, Akim Aliu, Marcel Albers, Matt Dumba, Saroya Tinker, Anthony Duclair, and Wayne Simmons were players speaking to the director, saying that when they were young, they never understood why there were no other players that looked like them. This may have broken them deep inside, but it wouldn’t stop them from their pursuits.
Craig Smith, the president of the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, was aware of these stories, and knew well what was being done to blacks in Africville, Halifax Nova Scotia. He made the critical decision to research what needed to be done. With help, he found out about the Colored Hockey League (CHL) and what they found was both terrific and horrific. Black players, as children, couldn’t play hockey with white children. What’s unveiled in this section of the film will be scrutinized forever.
In 1903, a black player named Eddie Martin lifted his stick off the ice during play, which was against the rules of hockey at the time.
Having done that, everyone soon copied it. Eddie Martin pioneered the “Slap Shot.” Have you ever heard of him? Was he ever recognized? This unvalued and underappreciated oppression happened way too often.
Throughout and then toward the film’s end, images of black players were incredible to see. In the end, players are shown how they looked then and how they look now. That was extremely special. However, hearing their stories, one by one, but sounding the same, is unjustified and angering. Sure, people should have spoken up sooner, but would it have made a difference?
I highly recommend this movie to you whether you’re a sports fan or not.
Directed by: Hubert Davis
Written by: Darril Fosty
Features: P.K. Subban, Akim Aliu, Marcel Albers, Matt Dumba, Saroya Tinker, Anthony Duclair, Wayne Simmons
Run Time: 1h 37m
Genres: Sports, Documentary
Executive Produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Aubrey “Drake” Graham, Adel “Future” Nur
Production Co: Black Ice Productions, The Springhill Company, First Take Entertainment, Uninterrupted
Produced by Vinay Virmani, Scott Moore
Distributors: Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions
Exclusively In AMC Theaters on July 14