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More minorities in officiating, coaching is NHL's next step

From FOX Sports - February 13, 2018

Shandor Alphonso never envisioned his hockey career taking him to officiating. He didnt have to look far to see it was possible.

As a young, black player, all Alphonso had to do was watch Hockey Night in Canada or the Stanley Cup Final and he saw fellow minority Jay Sharrers working as a linesman.

To be able to see someone who kind of looked like me working at the biggest stage of his job, it was unreal, Alphonso said.

The 34-year-old Alphonso is the NHLs only African-American official, and Calgary Flames assistant Paul Jerrard is the leagues only black coach. With the sports expansion to some nontraditional markets across the United States, there are almost two dozen black players in the NHL, but Sharrers, Alphonso and Jerrard serve as inspiration for more to follow into positions of authority.

I think its an evolutionary process, said Sharrers, who recently retired. Its definitely moved slowly, but I think when you just look at the amount of black players that are now in the league and the fact that that has increased, it would stand to reason that hopefully the opportunity for officials would present itself.

Sixty years after Willie ORee of the Boston Bruins broke the color barrier as the NHLs first black player, the league is still taking steps to increase its diversity. Alphonso is an ambassador for the Hockey is for Everyone campaign this month, which is Black History Month.

Sharrers acknowledged the expense of playing hockey has been a hurdle for minority children for years, but said he is optimistic that more will not only lace up their skates but move into other roles.

It just stands to reason that that would be a natural progression, that there would more officials of color, Sharrers said. The league has been very proactive since they partnered with Willie and created the diversity taskforce almost 20 years ago to expose and to present to people of color that hockey is a great game and its a viable opportunity.

Opportunities have existed for minorities to get into coaching and officiating, though the majority have ended up as goaltending coaches like former NHL goalie Fred Brathwaite. Jerrard played five games in the NHL and then went into coaching, where hes a visible role modeleven if thats not a role he was looking for.

Im just another coach whos trying to do a good job in the league and stay in the league, said Jerrard, 52, who has been an assistant with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Flames along with several American Hockey League teams. I guess I am now in a little bit of a position of a role model, but my drive to be a role model isnt due to the color of my skin. Its just the way I wanted carry myself as a human being, the way I want to be looked at: doing the right thing and working hard.

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