"We have no reason to belittle ourselves because someone else belittles themselves and brings themselves to a lower level."
In episode 220 of the Glass and Out Podcast, we had the honour of being joined by John Paris Jr., the first black coach in professional hockey. His incredible story is one of perseverance as his ability to have an optimistic mindset despite the many challenges he faced throughout his journey in hockey is incredible.
Paris Jr. grew up in Windsor, Nova Scotia, excelling at many sports as a youth; he gained notoriety as a star hockey player, despite being undersized and one of the only Black people playing the game in his area.
At 25, he nearly lost his life due Hodgkin Lymphoma and Ulcerative Colitis, resulting in the removal of part of his colon. This circumstance resulted in him discovering his life’s work: coaching hockey and helping others discover the best version of themselves.
During the 1993-94 season, he was hired by the Atlanta Knights of the now defunct International Hockey League, marking the first time a person of colour had been appointed Head Coach of a pro hockey team. The move paid off as the Knights captured the Turner Cup and an IHL Championship that season.
All throughout this time, he faced adversity as a Black man in a predominantly white sport. Despite the challenges, his mindset has always been one of positivity, with him always having a strong belief in himself.
“I’ve had people spit on me, call me names…it never stopped me from playing. We have no reason to belittle ourselves because someone else belittles themselves and brings themselves to a lower level.”
Listen as Paris Jr. discusses how he overcame the adversity of being a Black hockey player and coach, the story of being scouted by Scotty Bowman, and the drive to get him inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Glass and Out Podcast