Born Too Soon
Shayla Hudson Riggle
Born in 1919 to Jamaican immigrants, Herb Carnegie fell in love with the game of hockey. Since childhood, his only dream was to play in the NHL. This may have seemed unattainable to most, especially Herb’s father, but young Herb was determined to beat the odds. After winning multiple championships and MVP awards in the junior Ontario Hockey League alongside brother Ossie, the pair moved to the semi pro Northern Ontario Hockey Association. There the brothers teamed up with Manny McIntyre to form the famous, first all-black line in professional hockey. While Herb proved that he was the best player in Canada, deserving of a “call-up” to the big leagues, his color remained his biggest opponent. During World War II, when 80 NHL players were called to fight for their country, leaving open roster spots, Herb was overlooked for white players. As an adolescent, Herb’s father had instilled in him the belief that “you need to work twice as hard as white people to get what you deserve”. Society had taught him to take what was offered without negotiation. The dichotomy of these lessons was not acceptable to Herb; who was grossly underpaid for his skill level. Ticket sales increased as fans clamored to watch him play and he insisted on being compensated accordingly. Ignorant comments from an influential team owner and a soul-crushingly low contract offer from another team ultimately led to Herb’s dream of playing NHL hockey going unfulfilled. But by standing up for himself and against the social injustices of the times it becomes apparent how Herb Carnegie changed the game one shot at a time. Rising above these misfortunes, Herb persevered and began to blaze a trail for others to follow.