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Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday … Herb Carnegie

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was a Canadian ice hockey player. He was born in Toronto, Ontario to Jamaican parents. He played professional hockey at a time when there was racial discrimination in the NHL that prevented him from playing for the New York Rangers in the 1948-49 season. After his professional hockey career was over, he became a successful businessman working in the investment industry. In 1954, he founded one of Canada’s first hockey schools, Future Aces, and through his work in training young hockey players, became a member of both the Order of Ontario and the country’s highest civilian award, the Order of Canada. His hockey career was recognized when he was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2014. He died in Toronto in March 2012 at age 92.

Carnegie’s hockey career began in 1938 with the Toronto Young Rangerman and continued in the early 1950 with the Buffalo Ankerites, a team in a mines league that played in mining towns in northern Ontario and Quebec. From 1944-45 to 1947-48, he played for Shawinigan and Sherbrooke of the semi-professional Quebec Provincial League and was named most valuable player in 1946, 1947 and 1949.

In 1948, Carnegie was given a tryout with the New York Rangers and offered a contract to play in the Rangers’ minor league system. However, he was offered less money than he was earning in the Quebec league and turned down all three offers made by the Rangers organization during his tryout.

Returning to Canada to play in the Quebec Senior Hockey League, he played for Sherbrooke St. Francis and the Quebec Aces before moving to Ontario to play a single season with the Owen Sound Mercuries of the Ontario Senior Hockey Association. During his years in the Quebec Senior League, Carnegie played with future Montreal Canadiens star Jean Beliveau and was coached by Punch Imlach.

As a black man playing hockey in the 1940s and 1950s, Carnegie endured his share of racism. In one famous 1938 incident, Conn Smythe, the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, watched Carnegie play as a member of the Toronto Young Rangers. He is alleged to have said either that he would accept Carnegie on the team if he were white or that he would pay $10,000 to anyone who could turn Carnegie white. In Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Professional Hockey, author Cecil Harris noted that “some doubt has arisen” as to whether Smythe did indeed utter this remark. According to Harris, Carnegie and others believe that racism played an important part in keeping him out of the NHL. Others interviewed point to his decision to refuse the Rangers offer to play in their organization.

After retiring from the game of hockey in 1953, Carnegie started the Future Aces Hockey School, one of the first hockey schools in Canada. In 1954, he wrote the “Future Aces Creed” in an attempt to foster respect, tolerance, diversity and sportsmanship among young people.

Carnegie also continued his athletic career as a golfer, winning the Canadian Seniors Golf Championship in 1977 and 1978, and the Ontario Senior Golf Championship in 1975, 1976 and 1982.

In 1987, he established the Herbert H. Carnegie Future Aces Foundation to provide bursaries for college and university.Carnegie also had a successful business career as a financial planner with the Investors Group.

In 1996, he published his biography, A Fly in a Pail of Milk: The Herb Carnegie Story (Mosaic Press, 1996).

Carnegie was named to the Order of Ontario in 1996 and the Order of Canada in 2003. On May 2, 2005, the North York Centennial Centre was renamed the Herbert H. Carnegie Centennial Centre in his honour. On June 12, 2006, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from York University. A public school in York Region is named in his honour.

He also received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship in 1988, the Metropolitan Toronto Canada Day Medal in 1990, the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal in 1992, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights…Herb Carnegie.

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