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Herb Carnegie was one of the best hockey players of the 1940s and ’50s but he never made it into the National Hockey League. The reason? The colour of his skin.
In 1938, Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe allegedly said he would take Carnegie tomorrow if he could turn his skin white.
“Conn Smythe could have been joking with the guys when he said it but you know when you joke and say something like that, it has a ring of truth to it. For me, Conn Smythe was admitting that my father was good enough to play for the Maple Leafs,” said Bernice Carnegie, Herb’s daughter.
The New York Rangers invited Herb to training camp in 1948 but he turned down the offer because he would have made less money than he was making in the lower leagues.
“They pointed out that he would make headlines and my father’s response was ‘I cannot feed my family on headlines.’”
Herb Carnegie could have walked away from hockey at that point, but he didn’t. Instead, he founded Canada’s first registered hockey school in 1955 – The Future Aces. His goal was to create good hockey players who are also good community members.
“He wasn’t the person who went to meetings, went to marches. They didn’t have the same kinds of things happening back then. But he went to schools. His intent was that he should help young people understand and empower them to be the best of who they could be. He thought that if he could do that then maybe they would help change the world for the better.”
He was also an inventor. Bernice says he created the magnetic hockey instruction board which was a precursor to the white boards currently used by coaching staff. He also created a hockey game to help people understand the sport.