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'Black Ice' screens in Montreal with closer look at racism in hockey

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A documentary called 'Black Ice' is screening at the Bell Centre Tuesday night, taking a look at racism in Canadian hockey as experienced by the athletes themselves.

It’s a raw take on the struggles and setbacks faced by pro hockey players of colour.

'Black Ice' features interviews with Wayne Simmonds, Akim Aliu and P.K. Subban revealing their hateful experiences with racism in hockey.

"The Black experience has always been tied to hockey and I think that's something we don't think about enough," said Academy-Award nominated director Hubert Davis.

Davis took a closer look at a specific chapter in Black history, when the all-pro Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes saw action in the early 1900s.

"I was just blown away that it existed and we didn't really know much about it," said Davis, who said he thinks those hockey pioneers would be more celebrated if not for the colour of their skin.

'Black Ice' also revisits pioneering players like Herb Carnegie and Willie O'Ree, who was the first Black player in the NHL. Both saw their careers stunted by racism -- something Davis said still happens.

"I think if you’re trying to say, 'This problem doesn't exist so therefore I don't have to talk about it,' [it's] kind of like putting your head in the sand," said Davis.

In the film, players say they need to be seen for their talent, not their colour.

"These are things that we're facing today, and really, they came forward and they had the courage to tell their stories because they want it to change for the next generation," said Davis.

The documentary discusses how change in hockey culture has to come from the top down in the leagues.

"These things happen over and over again, but it's how we deal with them, so I think that's the positive impact is from organizations that are taking a look at it and bringing in people, educators that understand and seeing it can change," said Davis.

These athletes of colour said they shared taunts and torments they endured so they can see change.

"They wouldn't put up with what they put up with if they didn't love the sport and for so many of them, that's how they've made their livelihoods, it's how they built community," said the director. "There's something beautiful about the sport and that's what they're fighting for, their place in it."

'Black Ice' is screening for Black History Month at Taverne 1909 in the Bell Centre, with a Q&A afterwards. The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. and is free of charge.

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