Campus Life

Bob Dawson, Hockey and The Black Experience: How Sport Influences Society

4 April, 2013

Bob Dawson

In the wake of the excitement surrounding the recent release of the film 42 celebrating Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's colour bar, it is worth recalling Bob Dawson's trailblazing role in university hockey as a member of the Saint Mary's Huskies almost a half century ago. Born in Dartmouth, N.S., Bob was the first black player in the Atlantic Intercollegiate Hockey League (AIHL) in 1967, and made history in 1970 when, during a hockey, he joined Darrell Maxwell and Percy Paris to form the "first and only all-Black line" in Canadian university hockey. He helped the Huskies capture consecutive AIHL championships from 1968 to 1971. Given his love for the game, Bob played intermediate and senior hockey after leaving Saint Mary's. Even today he continues to play adult recreational hockey, keeping healthy in the process.

In 2012, Bob organized and moderated panel sessions on Hockey and The Black Community, Black Ice: A Retrospective on The Colored League of the Maritimes (1894-9125), and Hockey and The Black Experience at the Putting it on Ice III Hockey Conference hosted by the Centre for the Study of Sport and Health (CSSH) at Saint Mary's. "Bob worked tirelessly in putting these panels together," said CSSH Academic Director Colin Howell, "bringing together a group of black intercollegiate and professional hockey players, hockey moms, and community leaders as a way of understanding the issues and raising the visibility of Black hockey in Canada."

Since 2005, Bob has served on the Executive Board of SONAHR (Society on North American Historians and Researchers) as well as the organization's Black Ice Project, which focuses on reclaiming and promoting the history of the Coloured Hockey League of the Maritimes. He is also a Founding Member of the Black Ice Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame Conference in Dartmouth, N.S. In 2012, Bob was recognized by Dartmouth's Black Ice Hockey and Sports Hall of Fame Society for his achievements in and contributions to hockey.

Bob holds a B.A. from Saint Mary's (1971) and a M.S.W. from Dalhousie (1973). Retired from a distinguished career in the Federal Public Service, he resides in Ottawa where he's active in the community and works as a consultant in the areas of community development, employment equity and diversity. Bob is a contributing senior sports writer for Box Score News and has written articles on hockey (e.g. The Way It Was: Black Players Locked out of the NHL from 1961-1974, Soul on Ice: Blacks and Historic Firsts in Hockey, Soul on Ice: A Retrospective on Blacks and the NHL), baseball (e.g. Sleeping Tigers: Vancouver's Ashi Baseball Team, Negro Baseball's Canadian Connections, Canada's Impact on Major League Baseball), basketball (e.g. Naismith: Inventor of Basketball?, North Stars: Canadians of the NBA), as well as football (e.g. The CFL: A Haven for African-American Quarterbacks, The CFL and African-American Players, Breaking Through the CFL's Power Structure). To view the forgoing articles and others click on and  Bob also has appeared on local TV and radio shows in Ottawa to talk about blacks and hockey-related issues.