This is something i’ve thought about for a long time, but never posted, mostly out of fear of a ‘sensitive’ issue. Very few people do talk about it. But Kukla’s Korner just linked to someone else talking about it, so i figured i’d chime in:
I have often wondered about the lack of minority players playing at least a partial role in hockey not being as quickly adopted in the southern (particularly south-east) US. When i go to games in Nashville, the vast majority of fans in the stands are all white. Like 98.5%. Meanwhile Titans games and other sports in town draw just about equally from the black and white communities. In cities where there is a large minority population (in some cases they are the vast majority, in fact) it makes an “all-white” sport a tough draw, economics aside. I wish it didn’t, but i think it does. I’ve often wondered if the Preds would start drawing better if they traded for Ray Emery, Anson Carter, or maybe even Mike Grier (i’d love to have Jarome Iginla, but i don’t think that’s going to happen).
Outside of just the local team draw, i think the lack of diversity impacts the overall appeal nationwide. Many sports right now are heavily promoted/influenced/marketed with “black culture”.
A friend of mine (who is black) told me he just got season tickets for the Preds. He was amazed. He’d never seen hockey live before and has absolutely fallen in love. He said he grew up watching nothing but football and basketball. He’d just never been exposed to it. I don’t think that much is unique to him being black, just growing up in Nashville. But what i think is more unique is that, for those little kids who are 9 or 10 growing up…they look for role models. People they can relate to but want to emulate. Right now, as much as he may enjoy watching a game, there aren’t a whole lot players for a 9-year old black kid growing up in Nashville or Atlanta to relate to.
I’m not saying hockey is doing it on purpose. I’m not saying that hockey can’t succeed as it is now. But i really think that hockey would have a huge boost, especially in the southern US, if they could increase the minority presence. Many teams (the Preds included) are starting to run hockey programs for kids that can’t afford it. The more accessible they can make it, the better. How might things look different if someone like Lebron James had decided he wanted to be the next Wayne Gretzky, not the next Michael Jordan.
Ok. There. I said it.
Let the flame wars begin…