Hockey isn’t really the most popular sport among Black people. Although the sport was officially integrated on January 18, 1958, the NHL has only welcomed a little less than 100 players of Black or African descent.
A little over 20 years later, the NHL welcomed arguably its best Black player to ever play the game. Grant Fuhr, a goaltender, most notably for the Edmonton Oilers, came into the league after a couple stellar years in the WHL and took it by storm.
Fuhr, who is actually mixed (but still Black, don’t get it twisted), was born and raised in Alberta, Canada. After being drafted No. 8 overall in the 1981 NHL Draft, he quickly ascended to the top and was considered one of the league’s best players. He became an All-Star in his sophomore campaign and would add five more of those appearances to his accolades.
All-Star games aren’t the brightest spot. Fuhr was the stalwart of the Oilers five Stanley Cup teams in the 80s and 1990. Even Wayne Gretzky said that Fuhr was the greatest goaltender in NHL history, and that statement probably carries more weight than what any writer or award could say.
In January during All-Star weekend, Fuhr was named one of the 100 greatest players in NHL history. He holds a handful of NHL records, including most consecutive games in a single season by a goaltender (76), longest undefeated streak in a goalkeeper’s first season (23), and the record for most wins in a single season (Tied – 16).
Despite all of those accolades, his greatest feat is that he broke barriers for the sport. Fuhr became the first Black player to win a Stanley Cup and became the first to be inducted in the NHL Hall of Fame on this day, November 2, 2003.
Fuhr’s “technical” impact on the sport in terms of African American presence has been minimal, but that is likely due to the culture and lack of mainstream popularity of hockey in America. Still, Fuhr’s legacy goes beyond the ice, and opened the door for the next great Black NHL players.