Throughout his life, Jarome Iginla felt fortunate to have the support that he did because he knows his experience in hockey would have been different without it.
Iginla admits it has been tough to see everything that has been going on in the world, but heâ€™s been encouraged by the diverse group of people gathering together and speaking out.
While he was one of just a few black hockey players on every team he played on, Iginla knows he didnâ€™t go through the same issues and experiences most black people in North America have been dealing with.
At the same time, the former Calgary Flames captain points to the willingness of others to stand up for him as something that made a difference in his life. He admits that when itâ€™s another person who steps up and speaks out it has a greater impact.
â€œIf my grandpa [whoâ€™s from Nigeria] had to go over and fight for me, that wouldnâ€™t be the same,â€ Iginla said on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast.â€ â€œIt felt way better when my buddyâ€™s dad went over and just laid down the law.
â€œâ€¦ I donâ€™t have many instances and I know they stick with kids because I can literally almost think of all of mine and Iâ€™m very thankful that I didnâ€™t have more and that I had people there to back me up.â€
Iginla has been following all the current NHL players speaking out since against the death of George Floyd and believes itâ€™s important to have leaders who show that they are sensitive to the issues going on.
The Edmonton, Alta., native also points to Willie Oâ€™Ree, who broke the NHL colour barrier and paved the way for so many other players. Having that possibility and the dream of playing in the NHL was all Iginla needed.
â€œKids in minor league would say to me â€˜What are your chances of playing in the NHL? There are no other black players.â€™ And for me, it was always important for me following my dream and very special to be able to look to players like Grant Fuhr and Tony McKegney. Thatâ€™s what I was dealing with and it was always powerful.â€
When asked about what he would tell a young player in todayâ€™s climate, Iginla points to his experience with his own children and their hockey teams that he coaches.
â€œI would say that hockey, itâ€™s a game for everybody and itâ€™s a wonderful game made up of people,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™d also say to other kids, you know, all kids are sensitive of each other and what makes a locker room so great is accepting of each other.
â€œI say this as a coach to my kidsâ€™ teams: weâ€™re not all the same and thatâ€™s a good thing. The most important thing is to respect each other and treat people how youâ€™d want to be treated. And I think thatâ€™s very important. If youâ€™re there and thereâ€™s a kid thatâ€™s down, you can help pick him up and help his day go a little bit better. And these are all the neat things you learn growing up and why I love sports.â€