Some of the most influential individuals in business, entrepreneurship and at all levels of hockey today formally announced the launch of The Carnegie Initiative, an independent not for profit platform to promote the growth of hockey and ensure opportunity and access to the sport. The Carnegie Initiative will also establish and award academic grants and other incentives for those who are doing work to positively grow and address change in the sport throughout Canada and the United States.
The foundation is named in honor of legendary hockey player and social justice pioneer Herb Carnegie. It is co-founded by Bernice Carnegie and Bryant McBride. Bernice is Herb’s daughter and co-author of their family autobiography, “A Fly in a Pail of Milk”, featuring Part II – Lessons passed on from father to daughter. Bryant is a longtime businessman and former National Hockey League executive. McBride co-produced “Willie,” the critically acclaimed documentary about hockey pioneer and Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, who broke the color barrier in the NHL. Board members include well-known figures within hockey and in business, ranging from Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr, veteran NHL executives Brian Burke and Ted Nolan, Olympian Sarah Nurse, legendary broadcasters Ron MacLean and Harnarayan Singh, women’s hockey pioneer and Hall of Famer Angela James, and other key leaders at the grassroots level representing members of the BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and parasport communities.
“Change in hockey, and opening up the game for all, is something that is growing but needs to be accelerated, and we believe that the time to do that has never been better,” said McBride, the first black executive at the National Hockey League. “There are so many efforts going on, both big and small, to help expand the game, and our goal is to shed light on those communities, as well as help those still being marginalized, change problems that exist. We will do it holistically and without any bias.”
“Hockey is a great game, and my father worked hard throughout his life to make sure opportunities existed for all,” added co-chair Bernice Carnegie. “The Carnegie Initiative can now focus with the necessary resources and outreach to expand his work and help those who need it thrive both on and off the ice.”
The Carnegie Initiative will work independently with executives, teams, leagues, federations, brands and leading academic institutions across North America to champion the successes of diverse audiences in hockey as well as work to address and correct issues in the game on all levels with regard to any area of diversity. It will accelerate the work started by Herb Carnegie, a Canadian of Jamaican descent, more than 60 years ago when he launched his first hockey school in Toronto to teach hockey skills while fostering a spirit of diversity and inclusiveness.
The Carnegie Initiative (CI) will work to
• Ensure that hockey is inclusive, supportive and welcoming to all
• Examine the efforts of governing bodies and other stewards of the game to make hockey more diverse and inclusive
• Use rigorous academic research to identify and solve the sport’s biggest issues
• Shine a light on success stories and best practices through media partners
• Create substantive, authentic change throughout the hockey world
In short, advance the change in the culture of hockey.
The Carnegie Initiative’s leadership team includes Stephanie J. Geosits, Executive Director, and Ken Gelman, Chief Commercial Officer. Geosits worked alongside McBride at the NHL in launching the league’s first diversity programs and Gelman was one of the initial creators of NHL Center Ice. Both are long-time sports executives and entrepreneurs.
For information on making a contribution to The Carnegie Initiative, contact Ken Gelman. For information on The Carnegie Initiative grants to academic institutions contact Stephanie J. Geosits.
Carnegie’s hockey career began in 1938 and ran through the mid 1950’s. His chance at playing in the NHL came in the late 1940’s when he was given a tryout with the New York Rangers and offered a contract to play in the Rangers’ minor league system, but because he was offered considerably less money than he was earning in the Quebec League he turned down all three offers made by the Rangers organization during his tryout. As a black man playing hockey in the 1940’s and 1950’s, Carnegie endured his share of racism. In one famous incident, Conn Smythe, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, watched Carnegie play as a member of the Toronto Young Rangers. He is alleged to have said either that he would accept Carnegie on the team if he were white or that he would pay $10,000 to anyone who could turn Carnegie white.
After retiring, Carnegie had a successful business career as a financial planner with the Investors Group, and in 1955, he founded one of Canada’s first hockey schools, Future Aces, and through his work in training young hockey players, became a member of both the Order of Ontario and the country’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada. His hockey career was recognized when he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. He passed away in Toronto in March 2012 at age 92.
cover image: Pexels/Alexandr Podvalny