Carnegie entered the Hockey Hall of Fame after denying himself the NHL dream

Carnegie entered the Hockey Hall of Fame after denying himself the NHL dream

“We all had a chance to come together and Herbie had the same chance as everyone else to be a part of it,” said Pete Conacher, an NHL forward from 1951 to 1958. “What happened to him in Herbie, as in hockey, it didn’t necessarily happen at the old men’s lunch, that’s for sure.”

Carnegie was an electric, high-scoring center from the 1930s through the 1950s who dreamed of playing in the NHL, but was held back because of race.

Carnegie, considered by many to be the greatest black player never to make it to the NHL, will finally take his place among many of the league’s greats on Monday when he is posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Constructors category .

“When Jackie Robinson was breaking racial barriers in baseball, that wasn’t happening in our sport,” Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee chairman Mike Gartner told TSN in June after the election was announced of Carnegie. “When you have somebody like Herb Carnegie, who, because of the color of his skin, wasn’t really allowed to play in our league the way it was at the time, that’s a problem. We’re looking at it and” he’s looking at the kind of legacy he’s left.”

Carnegie’s induction culminates a decades-long effort by family, hockey historians, current and former players and fans to get the man who blazed a trail as a player, innovator and philanthropist into the Hall .

“My father clearly made history and tried to pursue a career that was not traditionally considered for black men, and he did it well,” said his daughter, Bernice. “He certainly encountered setbacks and challenges. But what I love so much about my father is how he navigated the difficulties and remained a winner in life.”

Carnegie, who died on March 9, 2012 at the age of 92, will become the fifth black member of the Hall, joining Grant Fuhr (2003), Angela James (2010), Willie O’Ree (2018) and Jarome Iginla (2020).

O’Ree, who became the NHL’s first black player when he debuted for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens at the Montreal Forum on Jan. 18, 1958, has said Carnegie should have entered the League before him

“Herb Carnegie was an outstanding hockey player, but more importantly, he was a beautiful human being,” O’Ree said.

The son of Jamaican immigrants to Canada, Carnegie played in the Quebec Provincial Hockey League, the Quebec Senior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey Association Senior A League from 1944 to 1954. playing for the Quebec Aces of the QSHL from 1949 to 1953, where he mentored young teammate Jean Beliveau, a future Montreal Canadiens big man and 1972 Hall of Famer.

Carnegie was part of the “Black Aces,” the first black professional hockey line, which also featured his brother, Ossie, and Manny McIntyre, with the Timmins Buffalo Ankerites in 1941.

He won two scoring titles and three QPHL Most Valuable Player awards from 1944-48. He competed on four Allan Cup teams in the 1940s and helped Quebec win the Alexander Cup as Canadian semi-pro champion in 1952.

Beliveau, in his autobiography, “Jean Beliveau: My Life in Hockey,” wrote that Carnegie had NHL-level skills, but he had one drawback: He was black.

“I believe Herbie was shut out of the NHL because of his color,” Beliveau wrote in the book co-authored by Chris Goyens and Allan Turowetz. “He certainly had the talent and was very popular with the fans, who would reward his great play with standing ovations, both at home and on the road.”

NHL teams were aware of Carnegie’s talent. Toronto Maple Leafs owner Conn Smythe said he would “give $10,000 to any man who can whitewash Herb Carnegie” after watching him play for the Toronto Junior Rangers in 1938.

The closest Carnegie got to the NHL was when the New York Rangers invited him to training camp in September 1948. He accepted the invitation but turned down three contract offers, including the last one that would have made him play for the American Hockey League affiliate of the Rangers. in New Haven, Connecticut.

Carnegie, who was 28 at the time with a wife and three children, turned down the offers because they were less than what he was making playing in Quebec, his daughter said.

“They promised, ‘Oh, well, you know you’ll be the first one…’ but Dad said, ‘I can’t feed my family on the headlines,'” Bernice Carnegie said. “I have to applaud my dad for their choices. He made the right decisions for his family.”

Hockey historians and writers have debated whether Carnegie was wrong to decline the Rangers’ offer.

Cecil Harris, author of “Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Hockey,” said he wished Carnegie had accepted the Rangers’ final offer because it reflected the Brooklyn Dodgers’ approach that led Robinson to break the color barrier of Major League Baseball in 1947. The Dodgers first assigned Robinson to a minor league team in Montreal before promoting him to Brooklyn.

“If players had agents back then, someone might have advised Herb Carnegie to look at the big picture: You’re one step away from the NHL, there were only six teams, the Rangers were the worst of the six teams that season (18- 31-11 in 1948-49),” said Harris, who interviewed Carnegie for his 2004 book. “So, if anything, the Rangers could have called him up and he would have been the Jackie Robinson of the hockey. But it’s complicated because the Rangers also could have afforded to match what he was doing in Canada and he didn’t.”

Carnegie never got another chance in the NHL.

“The scars of that experience scar my soul to this day,” Carnegie wrote in his 1997 autobiography co-written with Bernice, “A Fly in a Pail of Milk: The Herb Carnegie Story.” “Rangers camp was the end of my dream of playing in the NHL.”

Carnegie retired as a player in 1954 and achieved as much success off the ice as he did on it. He founded the Future Aces School, one of the first registered hockey academies in Canada.

He developed the Carnegie System, a patented magnetic hockey instruction board that was used by some NHL teams.

He created the Future Aces Creed, a 12-point philosophy to help turn young people into responsible citizens. He also became a successful financial advisor and a senior championship golfer.

He co-founded the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation in 1987 with his wife, Audrey and Bernice, with the mission of inspiring young people to be confident and pursue educational excellence.

The non-profit organization has awarded more than $900,000 in scholarships to children across Canada. But Carnegie brought more than money to the foundation. It gave people hope.

Mark DeMontis was a foundation scholarship and promising AAA hockey player in Toronto at age 17 when a rare eye disease called Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy took his sight.

Carnegie, who lost his sight to glaucoma in his later years, teamed up with DeMontis and invited him to tell his story to students and school organizations. Inspired by Carnegie and the Future Aces Creed, DeMontis founded Courage Canada in 2009 and traveled more than 3,100 miles from Toronto to Vancouver on inline skates to raise funds and support for youth hockey programming.

In 2016, the organization evolved into Canadian Blind Hockey, which offers programs for blind and visually impaired children and adults including youth teams, development camps and tournaments.

“I still remember Herb always looking at me saying, ‘Mark, no matter what happens, keep the spark burning, keep the fire burning inside you,'” DeMontis said. “Inspire is an understatement. It saved and changed my life.”

Carnegie became one of Canada’s most decorated citizens, enshrined in 13 halls of fame and invested in the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors. A public school and a skating rink in the Toronto area are named after him.

Now he is about to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

“My grandfather was ahead of his time,” said Rane Carnegie, a grandson who set up a petition to advocate for Carnegie’s induction into the Hall that garnered more than 15,000 signatures.

“I’m forever grateful, our family is forever grateful, and the countless young people who came after my grandfather are forever grateful that he was able to establish a blueprint and a foundation that we can all hope to follow and be so fortunate. capture even a small fraction of what he was able to do in his lifetime.”

Photos courtesy of Le Studio du hockey/Hockey Hall of Fame

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