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HOUGHTON COUNTY-- Known as a high class sport at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1902 what was then called the Amphidrome was established in Houghton helping create high school hockey in the Copper Country.
Houghton, Calumet and Hancock high schools competed at the Amphidrome. The 1904 Hancock Central High School hockey team was a little unique in that one of their players was the first African American to be on a high school hockey team.
"I've tried to figure out where is family came from. It may have been related to mining," said Bill Sproule, PhD, PE, Michigan Tech. "There was actually a group of a minister and churches in Nova Scotia that actually had a colored hockey league in the 1895 era. There were several teams in cities in the maritimes and it was all black teams. That's really kind of the first record of a black hockey players and it was called the Colored Hockey League... So he may have come from Atlantic Canada."
The player is known as Albert Black.
"When I first saw this photo it identifies as just Black," said Sproule. "So I always wondered at the time is that because this is an African American or is that his name? So I dug into the Daily Mining Gazette and found a story with his name in it, it was Albert Black."
Black played for one year for Hancock as a spare.
"So it means he didn't play a lot, but he was on the team," said Sproule.
The 1904 Hancock Central High School hockey team was titled the Champions of Michigan that year as well.
"Well there were no other high school teams in Michigan," said Sproule. "So they were the Local Champion. They beat Houghton this championship that year and there was no other high school teams in the rest of the state. And actually I've seen it written as they're national champs because there was so few."
Not only is that team's picture displayed at the Dee Stadium in Houghton where the Amphidrome was, it can also be seen at the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, Minnesota.
"Many people come by and said, 'Oh there's a black hockey player,' said Sproule. And I think on their drawing it identifies Black, his name is Albert Black."
And since the time of the Colored Hockey League in the 1890's era, more African American hockey players have participated in the sport.
"There was a black hockey player in Southern Ontario in the Woodstock area and then there was another player that played during the first World War for a team," said Sproule. "Probably the first star out of a black player in Canada was a fella named Herb Carnegie. He had to tryout with the New York Rangers in the 1940s, he didn't make the team and he played in Toronto, he played in Northern Ontario. But the first black player to make it to the NHL was a fella named Wilie O'Ree and he played for the Boston Bruins."