Paris to Toronto: The push for hockey’s first Black coach to enter Hockey Hall of Fame


Being first isn’t unfamiliar territory for John Paris Jr. In 1993, the former hockey player and coach from Windsor, N.S., became the first Black person to be named as head coach of a professional hockey team.Prior to that, he was the NHL’s first Black scout and the first Black coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.These are a few of the many reasons why Hockey Nova Scotia is now campaigning to help Paris Jr. land a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.“I’ve always felt that I was a coach or GM by choice, and Black by nature,” said Paris Jr. Story continues below advertisement “I don’t think we ever think about accolades like that because we’re used to being in the background,” he said, “but when people step forth and they do something like that, I owe them a lot of respect, it’s humbling.”On February 1, Hockey Nova Scotia launched a campaign titled “Paris to Toronto” to garner support. The petition has received nearly 2,000 signatures so far.Before his transition into a lengthy coaching career that spanned decades, Paris Jr. played in a variety of professional leagues, including a handful of NHL exhibition games. Trending Now Due to a battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and ulcerative colitis, Paris Jr.’s playing career ended in 1970.“I did what I’ve always done,” he said.“I looked for possibilities in a field that I was comfortable in, somewhere where I can continue to grow and learn, so that’s why the coaching part of it became an integral part of my life.”Paris Jr.’s brother, Percy, said that his brother’s career came with a lot of sacrifices and that he’s proud to see his contributions to the game finally recognized. Story continues below advertisement “John Paris has been doing those marvelous things all of his life, it wasn’t a one day thing, it wasn’t a one week thing, it was his entire life and he’s still doing it,” Percy said.“I just think that if John gets inducted, that’s the crowning glory, not just for John, but for all Nova Scotians,” his brother continued, “especially for the town of Windsor.”The two brothers will face off as opposing coaches in an annual exhibition game in Dartmouth on Saturday. The event, put on by Hockey Nova Scotia and the Black Ice Society, is to serve as the official rematch of a Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes game that took place in 1895.Paris Jr. had family members that played in the all-Black hockey league before it ended in 1930.The campaign launched by Hockey Nova Scotia has a goal set for 2,500 signatures.“If it did happen, I think that every youth would realize that nothing’s impossible,” Paris Jr. said.— With files from Global News’ Vanessa Wright &copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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