In the 98 years that hockey has been an Olympic sport, no black athlete has ever been named to a Team USA roster — until now.
20-year-old Jordan Greenway is poised to make history when he takes the ice at next month’s Winter Olympics. The Boston University forward was officially named to the team’s roster earlier this week, and since then, he has found himself the center of a glowing profile by Sporting News.
With NHL players absent from this year’s games — the league opted not to put a break in the season schedule as they’d done in years past — Greenway is arguably the face of U.S. hockey thanks to his newfound fame. (At least for the next month or so.)
Like many Winter Olympic sports, hockey is still very white, though its makeup is slowly changing.
Greenway understands that no matter what happens later in his promising career, this moment represents a unique opportunity to inspire a younger generation.
“I’ve been able to accomplish a lot of good things and just allowing a lot of African American kids who are younger than me who see kind of what I’m doing, I hope that can be an inspiration for them,” he told Sporting News. “Go out and do something different against the typical stereotypes that most African-Americans play basketball, or whatever the case is.”
The profile notes that Greenway is just one of 13 African American athletes playing Division I men’s hockey, making up less than one percent of the total. When it comes to the pros, black athletes are represented slightly better, though they still account for just 2.29% of all players.
For what it’s worth, the NHL has been investing time, money, and energy into increasing league diversity in past years.
Individual teams like the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, and San Jose Sharks, have launched inner-city outreach programs aimed at making hockey accessible to kids of all backgrounds and income levels.
“We want to get sticks in the hands of kids by taking the cost out of by [sic] letting them play. They learn about hockey, they learn about teamwork and they learn about the sport,” Chicago Blackhawks senior director of Fan Development Annie Camins told Rolling Stone in 2016. More than 90,000 kids have participated in the team’s program since its launch.
The 2018 Olympic Winter Games run from February 9-24 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.