Black Ice tells the story of the black hockey player’s experience
TIFF 2022: black ice Exam
A first at TIFF, black ice is a film about black hockey players, from the pioneers of the game who played when it was separated, to today’s amateur and professional players who have faced racist taunts from fans, opponents and even their own coaches.
It’s a well-told story that’s probably unknown even to most diehard hockey fans, but definitely needs to be told.
Directed by Hubert Davis, black ice comes from an extremely star-studded group of producers that includes LeBron James, Maverick Carter, and rappers Drake and Future. Those producers have since been sued for $10 million by Billy Hunter, the former head of the NBA players’ association, who claims to have exclusive rights to make a movie about the Colored Hockey League.
This league, which played between the end of the 19th century and 1930, is discussed in black ice, and we also hear from current and former Black NHL players, like PK Subban, Make Dumba, Wayne Simmonds and Akim Ali, some of whom tell stories of the racist abuse they faced. There’s no mention of Don Cherry, but if the movie had made room for that, it probably should have been twice as long.
There’s also the sad story of Herb Carnegie, a great black player of the 1940s and 1950s who never made it to the NHL and didn’t enter the Hockey Hall of Fame until long after his death. I was watching the movie in a movie theater a few blocks from this Hall of Fame.
The NHL broke its color line in 1958, a decade after Jackie Robinson did it in baseball, and it happened so recently that the player who did it, Willie O’Ree, is still alive.
Another issue is racist fan behavior, which is very, very bad and seems to know no geographical boundaries. It just seems that in every city in the United States and Canada – not just Boston, although it may sometimes seem that way – the most racist 5% of the population are all huge, huge hockey fans.
Philadelphia Flyers fans welcomed Wayne Simmonds, who is interviewed in the doc, and he became a fan favorite during his time in Philadelphia and then again, in 2000, when protests broke out in that city after the murder of George Floyd, an incident caused black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters to sing trying to drown them out with their own songof “Let’s Go Flyers”.
black ice tells an important story that deserves to be seen, even if the planned release time is unclear.
That said, I don’t really like this new trend of documentaries that end with a rap song, in the end credits, summarizing everything we’ve learned, especially when it’s as silly as this one. I guess that’s what happens when the rappers produce the movie, but nonetheless.
The 47th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8 to 18. Find all our covers here.