*The Tampa Bay Lightning made history Monday night when head coach Jon Cooper started three Black forwards during their final regular-season game against the Florida Panthers.
Per TMZ, “Daniel Walcott, Gemel Smith and Mathieu Joseph logged a ton of ice time — all 3 dudes played over 10 minutes each in the contest — and they were praised by the Lightning broadcast team for their efforts in the game,” the outlet writes.
“First time ever in NHL history they have started an all-Black line in this league. A big, historic moment tonight for sure,” said a Lightning broadcast commentator during the game.
“First of all, they’re all in the NHL for a reason,” Cooper told ESPN. “They deserve to be here and have worked their tails off. To have them all together, they had a little chemistry. Moving forward in the league, you hope it isn’t a story anymore and will be the norm. It was a pretty cool moment for all those guys.”
∙ Daniel Walcott
∙ Mathieu Joseph
∙ Gemel Smith pic.twitter.com/KrjIEaetrV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 11, 2021
Panthers forward Anthony Dunclair, who is Black, also shared his reaction to seeing the #BlackManMagic at the game.
“That’s great to see,” he said, ESPN reported. “The way that the NHL is moving forward, it’s great to see for those guys, and I’m sure it was a special night for them.”
As noted by TMZ, less than five percent of NHL players are Black or males of color, FiveThirtyEight reported last October. Smith and Walcott, who played in his first NHL game, aren’t regulars on the Tampa Bay roster, and Smith has played sparingly this season.
“Honestly, it was pretty awesome,” Joseph said … adding, “I think it’s a step in the right direction and obviously you got to thank the coaching staff for that, it was their call.”
“But, it was definitely fun to have some progress and clearly it’s a process over this, but seeing that, and I don’t know if it was the first, but I think it was great to see and I’m glad I was part of it.”
Walcott hopes young Black kids interested in hockey find inspiration in himself, Smith and Joseph.
“A whirlwind of emotion, a long time coming,” Walcott said. “To get into that starting lineup was great. … Coop did something really special here to promote this for young kids.”
“Coop did something really special here to promote this for young kids,” he added.