Having so many other minority teammates made everything easier, he added.
“I feel like it was really easy to gel,” Millette said. “Normally, it’s maybe one or two of us [minority players] in the locker room at a time.
“I feel like we’re cut from the same cloth, so we kind of get the same jokes or the same slang or whatever. That part of it was super easy, and it just kind of happened.”
It’s different from what these players might experience playing hockey. Maybe they feel different in a locker room, according to Braceful. That camaraderie off the ice, during team meals and in the locker room was vastly different at the tournament.
“I think that they felt maybe like they weren’t different for once, in a sport that just happens to be predominantly white,” Braceful said.
It was a chance for these players to look around and see minority teammates who’ve been successful in USHL, coaches who played in the NHL, an NHL draft pick on the team in Jordan Harris (2018 third rounder by Montreal) and plenty of Division I players. That can mean a lot for the younger players on the team with aspirations of playing at those high levels in hockey, according to Braceful.
“I think it just gave them a little bit of extra support to say, ‘Hey, I’ve already been on this … I can do this, too, like all of these other guys,’” Braceful said. “Even though we don’t always play together throughout the year, we’re all in different parts of the country. We can all do this.”
Building on this experience for the future, the original idea for the camp is still there, according to Braceful. COVID-19 made it a little harder to navigate this year, but the goal is to have a camp with on-and-off-ice teachings to continue to spread the word that hockey truly is for everyone, Braceful said.
“And instead of just saying it, actually being able to work together and show that,” Braceful said.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Header image from Frank Seravalli on Twitter