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Black Minnesota Hockey History

Minnesota hockey history dates back to the late 1800's with some of the first games originating from the Argyle/Hallock area of Minnesota.  Minnesota hockey pioneer - Cleve Bennie Bennewitz moved from the Hallock region, to Minneapolis and assisted in the formation of the game in the mill city.  Black (African American) hockey history players across the state of hockey origins in the game are not well known other than the great Bobby Marshall.  Marshall, a 1901 graduate of Minneapolis Central high school, who went onto earn 1905 All-American accolades at the University of Minnesota as a football end, was an all-around athlete and was also a member of the 1907 championship University of Minnesota baseball team, playing first base the year it won a conference title.  In addition, he won a letter in track.  When talk had circulated about starting a University of Minnesota hockey team in 1905, Marshall was listed as a prime candidate.  Bobby played hockey in the early 1900's with various semi-pro Minneapolis teams beginning in 1907, including the Minneapolis Eagles team, managed by Carl F. Struck [sweater with Struck and Eagle logo].  In 1908, Marshall was on the Burton Cup winning Champion Minneapolis Wanderers hockey club.  Local newspapers lauded Marshall as 'one of the best players in the City'. He played a position called cover point, and his 'sweeping stroke and long reach make him very effective in defense work'.  Although well regarded for his goal-scoring talents, he was sometimes cited for his 'rough playing'.  Marshall became the first African American semi-professional hockey player in the United States, but gave up after 1909 after suffering the only major injury of his whole sports career - a badly sprained ankle following a professional - albeit segregated - baseball championship win with the St. Paul Colored Gophers.  The colored Gophers went on to becoming one of the "most important Afro-American enterprises in St. Paul, a point of racial pride", according to the Appeal, the city's black newspaper where they 'achieved success in baseball against white teams that help fight the negative images of black inferiority'. 

Another early pioneer in the State of Minnesota was a goaltender by the name of Bill Butler, and quoted as the 'first negro player in the city and state to play hockey', article as shown mentions 'new goaltender for [Minneapolis] Lake Shores last played three years ago for Central High'.  

Another article that was published in local Star Tribune newspaper dating to 1960 speaks of a Jim Puckett (as shown) that Cleve Bennewitz wrote on in his scrapbook that he clearly doesn't agree with the article [as published] due to the fact Cleve played alongside Bill Butler with historic Lake Shores.


1907 Minneapolis Struck Eagles - Marshall Back Row Far Right


1908 Minneapolis Wanderers - Marshall Standing 2nd From Left

January 17, 1907

January 17, 1907

January 19, 1907

January 19, 1907

1960 Article

1960 Jimmy Puckett Article


Black hockey roots in the game of hockey across North America can be traced to the late 19th century.  The first black ice hockey star in country was Herb Carnegie during the Great Depression.  Willie O'Ree broke the NHL's black color barrier with the Boston Bruins in 1958.  The Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes began in 1895, as an initiative of black Baptist churches in Nova Scotia.  The aim was to increase and retain male membership.  The league consisted of teams from Halifax, Africville, Hammond's Plains, Dartmouth, Truro, Amherst and Charlottetown, P.E.I.  All games were on an invitational basis with the trophy still residing in a private home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Historically, the Coloured Hockey League was the first league to allow the goaltender to drop to the ice to stop the puck in game play.

Today, black players across the State of Hockey continue to don skates and break barriers that 'Hockey is for Everyone'.  On September 6, 2020 Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba was named the winner of the 2020 King Clancy Memorial Trophy.  The award is presented to the player 'who best exemplifies leadership qualities on and off the ice and has made a noteworthy humanitarian contribution in his community'.

“This is a very special day for me and my family. I’m just so honored,” Dumba said of receiving the award.  “This award really isn’t about you. It’s about the people around you, all the support and love that I’ve got for them. 


Ojibwa NHL Pioneer Henry Boucha (L) alongside Willie O'Ree (R)

When the passing of George Floyd happened, I took to my social media and knew that I could do more.  I didn’t know what that exactly meant at the time, but I knew I could step up and be an even bigger leader in my community, in the city that has shown me so much love and support throughout my career.  This is the least I can do, giving back to them and trying to make a difference, and [be] a voice of change and strength in our community... this is just the start. We’re going to do some awesome things.” 

Dumba emerged as a key leader in the effort to make the sport more inclusive — in response to the continuing social unrest across North America and calls for racial justice, Dumba co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, which aims to eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey.


'Black' Minnesota Firsts:

  • Bobby Marshall regarded as 1st black hockey Star and player in State, and was member of 1908 Minneapolis Wanderers Burton Cup winning team.  Additionally, Marshall went onto becoming the first ever Minnesota High School coach in the State when he coached his H.S. alma mater Minneapolis Central to a 1907 Football City Championship.
  • Bobby Marshall became the first black head coach in college history when Winnebago, MN Parker College hired Marshall as the clubs football coach in 1909.
  • Tony McKegney became 1st black NHL player to suit up for Minnesota North Stars on December 15, 1984.  (LW) McKegney was acquired in a trade along with Quebec Nordiques (RW) Bo Berglund in exchange for (D) Brad Maxwell and (LW) Brent Ashton the prior day December 14, 1984.  (Fellow black team-mate Dirk Graham suited up two months later to exact date for North Stars when he was called-up for Grahams' 1st NHL game from Salt Lake; February 15, 1984 with Neal Broten sidelined with a slight groin injury)

Tony McGee

  • Tony McGee became 1st black high school hockey Head Coach in 1999 leading Minneapolis Edison/North/Henry Soaring Eagles co-op hockey team.  McGee himself was a former MIAC DIII St. Mary's hockey player, and was apart of 1995 MIAC winning team that reached the DIII semi-finals.
  • Minnesota Wild team Doctor - Dr. Joel Boyd from Edina, MN (2000-present) became the 1st ever black team Physician in the NHL.  Boyd, formerly was the team Doctor for the IHL Minnesota Moose, 1998 USA Olympic Team, and has been with the Minnesota Wild since the inaugural season
  • Roseau, MN native Dustin Byfuglien became the first ever black American native in the NHL to win a Stanley Cup in 2010
  • In the 2017-2018 season, Minnesota Wild left wing - Jordan Greenway became the first African-American to play on a U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team


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December 14, 1984 North Stars Acquire Tony McKegney


Tony McKegney Carries Extra Burden in NHL


Black Players with Minnesota North Stars & Wild

Player Birthplace Minnesota NHL Team Years With Minnesota Club Ethnicity
Belle Shawn Edmonton, AB Wild 2005-2008 Afro Canadian
Brown J.T. Burnsville, MN Wild 2018-Present African American
Dumba Matt Regina, SK Wild 2012-Present Filipino Canadian
Earl Robbie Chicago, IL Wild 2008-2011 African American
Graham Dirk Regina, SK North Stars 1984-1988 Bi-racial/Afro Canadian
Greenway Jordan Canton, NY Wild 2017-Present Bi-racial
Jerrard Paul Winnipeg, MB North Stars 1988-1989 Bi-racial/Jamaican
McHugh Mike Bowdoin, ME North Stars 1988-1991 African American
McKegney Tony Montreal, QC North Stars 1984-1987 Bi-racial/Nigerian
Stewart Chris Scarborough, ON Wild 2014-2015 & 2016-2018 Bi-racial/Jamaican
Ward Joel North York, ON Wild 2005-2008 Barbadian

Black Minnesota BORN NHL Players

Player Birthplace Ethnicity
Brown J.T. Burnsville African American
Byfuglien Dustin Roseau African-Norwegian-Swedish
Okposo Kyle St. Paul Bi-racial/Nigerian
Suess C.J.* St. Paul Bi-racial

* C.J. Suess (previously C.J. Franklin)  C.J. prior to his senior year at Mankato State University decided to legally change his surname from Franklin to Suess, his mother's maiden name



February 15, 1984 Dirk Graham 1st NHL/North Stars Game


February 15, 1984 Dirk Graham 1st NHL Game



Dirk Graham


Tony McKegney


Mike McHugh


Joel Ward


Robbie Earl


Matt Dumba


Jordan Greenway


J.T. Brown


Kyle Okposo


Dustin Byfuglien Hoisting Cup at Roseau Memorial Arena


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