How Many Black NHL Players Are There in History?

Throughout the history of the NHL, there have been a little over 100 Black players that have played in the league. The first was Willie O’Ree in the 1957-58 NHL season, and there are currently over 30 Black players in the NHL as of the 2022-23 season.

Like all other sports, the NHL has become more diverse over the years. For the first few decades of the NHL, it was made up of almost entirely Caucasian players. But in recent seasons, we have seen more and more Black players call the league home.

But how many Black players have there been in NHL history? Keep reading to learn that and so much more.

Key Takeaways

  • There have been a little over 100 Black players that have played in the NHL throughout the history of the league.
  • The first Black NHL player to play in a game was Willie O’Ree, when he was called up to play for the Boston Bruins after a player injury in the 1957-58 season.
  • Today, some of the best Black players in the NHL include Anthony Duclair, Seth Jones, Wayne Simmonds, and Evander Kane. Some of the best of all time include Jarome Iginla, Grant Fuhr, P.K. Subban, and Dustin Byfuglien.

How Many Black NHL Players Are There in History?

Throughout the history of the NHL, there have been over 100 Black players that have played at least one NHL game. Some were incredible scorers, some were talented goalies, and others were great defensive players that stopped opposing offenses in their tracks.

Currently, there are more than 30 Black players in the NHL, including many that have only joined the league in the last few seasons, which is an encouraging sign that the league is becoming more and more diverse as the years go on.

This still represents a small amount of the total player base of the NHL, but it is great to see the NHL becoming more diverse and I hope we continue to see players of all races and backgrounds find success in the league.

The History of Black Players in the NHL

The very first Black player to ever play in the NHL was Willie O’Ree. He was a junior hockey player throughout Quebec and Ontario in the mid-1950s, and was called up to the Boston Bruins when one of their players was injured in the 1957-58 season.

He didn’t have a very long NHL career, but is credited with breaking the color barrier in the NHL. The second Black player in the history of the NHL was Mike Marson, who was also the first Black player drafted into the league.

Marson was drafted 19th overall in the 1974 NHL Draft and ended up playing nearly 200 games in his NHL career. In 1981, the first Black goalie in the NHL made his debut when Grant Fuhr joined the Edmonton Oilers.

In addition to being the first Black goalie, Fuhr was also the first Black player to win a Stanley Cup (he did so in 1984), and the first to make the Hall of Fame (which he joined in 2003).

Dirk Graham became the first Black player to be named the captain of a team when he was given the “C” for the Chicago Blackhawks from 1989 to 1995. Graham would also become the first Black NHL head coach in 1998-99.

Once the 1990s and 2000s hit, there were dozens of Black players in the league, including stars and fan favorites like Jarome Iginla, Ray Emery, Anson Carter, and Georges Laraque.

Today, the number continues to grow as the sport becomes more diverse and more people of all races and nationalities join the league.

The Best Black Players in NHL History

Even though there have only been around 100 Black players throughout the history of the NHL, many of them have been incredible players. Arguably the best of all time is Jarome Iginla. Iginla led the NHL in goals on two separate occasions, and was an incredibly popular player.

He was the captain of the Calgary Flames from 2003 to 2012, played over 1,500 games in his NHL career, and scored 625 goals and 1300 points in total. Another skater that deserves a ton of praise for his play on the ice is Grant Fuhr

As mentioned earlier, he won his first Stanley Cup in 1984, and would go on to win four more throughout the 1980s. He was a six-time All Star, and had over 400 wins in his NHL career.

P.K. Subban was one of the best defenseman of the 2010s, scoring over 35 points in eight straight seasons from 2010-11 to 2017-18. He also won the James Norris trophy as the league’s best defenseman in 2012-13.

Throughout the mid 2000s to the mid 2010s, few players in the NHL would be more physically imposing than the 6 ‘5 Dustin Byfuglien. He won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2010, and was a major contributor for the team as he scored 11 goals in the playoffs that year.

He played both defense and forward at different points in his career, and was incredibly capable on both ends of the ice.

In addition to the past, there are several outstanding Black players in the NHL today, including Anthony Duclair, Seth Jones, and Wayne Simmonds. There are plenty of young players poised to become stars as well, like Quinton Byfield, K’Andre Miller, and Lucas Raymond.


Here are a few commonly asked questions about Black players in the NHL, along with their answers.

Who was the first Black player to win the Stanley Cup?

The first Black player to ever win the Stanley Cup was Grant Fuhr. He was the starting goalie for the Edmonton Oilers when they won the Stanley Cup in 1984. Since then, several other Black players have won a Stanley Cup, including Ray Emery, Dustin Byfuglien, and Johnny Oduya.

What is the highest that a Black player has been drafted in the NHL Draft?

The highest a Black player has ever been selected in the NHL draft was second overall back in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, when Quinton Byfield was selected by the Los Angeles Kings.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has been able to help you learn more about the talented and skilled Black players who have played in the NHL over the years.

Who do you believe is the best Black NHL player in the history of the NHL? Let me know in a comment below.

About Kale
Being from Canada, hockey is essentially a way of life. I instantly fell in love with the game since I was being put on skates. From playing as a child (and the occasional street hockey game with friends today) to being a fan for over 20 years, I’m here to share my knowledge and passion for hockey. Email:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *