When the Olympic rosters for Team USA’s men’s and women’s hockey teams were officially unveiled earlier this week, most of the attention focused on a few controversial omissions from the women’s roster, and the abundance of unfamiliar names on the men’s side, brought about by the NHL’s decision not to allow its players to compete in PyeongChang, South Korea this year.
But the announcement also marked a historic moment for the sport: Jordan Greenway, a 20-year-old forward at Boston University, became the first African-American hockey player, male or female, to make an Olympics roster. Ice hockey has been an Olympic sport since 1920.
The United States has always fielded overwhelmingly white Winter Olympic teams, which isn’t surprising considering ice sports are predominantly played by white athletes thanks to a number of historical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors. According to Sporting News, which published an in-depth feature on Greenway’s journey this week, less than one percent of male college hockey players are African-American, and only two percent of NHL players are black.
But Greenway is proof that change is coming, albeit slowly. And he’s not alone. Last month, 17-year-old Maame Biney became the first black woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic speedskating team when she triumphed in two 500-meter finals at the short track trials. The only other black speedskater to ever make an Olympic team — gold medalist and four-time Olympian Shani Davis — is trying to make his fifth team this week at the U.S. long track trials.
While the ban on NHL players at this Olympics certainly opened a door for Greenway to make history sooner than many expected, the 6’6″, 230-pound forward also has the potential to be a future NHL star. He is a top prospect for the Minnesota Wild, and could have turned pro this year, but decided to stay in college for his junior year.
He hopes his success will inspire other black children to take up the sport.
“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,” Greenway told Sporting News. “Go out and do something different against the typical stereotypes that most African-Americans play basketball, or whatever the case is.”