What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Art Dorrington, the first black professional hockey player in the United States, dies at 87

Rangers signee dubbed the ‘Jackie Robinson of hockey’

4:13 PMArt Dorrington, who signed with the New York Rangers organization in 1950 to become the first black professional hockey player in the United States, died on Dec. 29, 2017, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Dorrington played for the Atlantic City Sea Gulls, Johnstown Jets, Washington Lions and Philadelphia Ramblers after moving around the Eastern Hockey League (EHL), Eastern Amateur Hockey League (EAHL) and International Hockey League (IHL). He was drafted into the Army in 1956 and spent 22 months overseas before briefly returning to hockey. A broken leg ended his career. He never got called up to the Rangers. The NHL wouldn’t see its first black player until Boston Bruins forward Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier in 1958.

Dorrington was born in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada, and rose onto the Rangers’ radar thanks to his high-scoring ability. He signed his pro contract the same year the NBA welcomed its first black players. He tallied 163 goals and 157 assists in 345 EHL, EAHL and IHL games.

Dorrington was pegged as the “Jackie Robinson of hockey” on a trading card.

“He was a true champion. He had a major impact on this city,” Dorrington’s daughter, Judah, told The Press of Atlantic City.

Dorrington joined the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office after retiring from hockey. In 1998, he and his wife founded a nonprofit program, Art Dorrington Ice Hockey Foundation, that provides low-income children the opportunity to learn life skills through hockey. For every hour the youths were on the ice, they spent an hour in the classroom. Dorrington’s mantra was “On the Ice – Off the Streets.” The Dorringtons’ foundation received the support of the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone.”

In 2012, Boardwalk Hall’s ice hockey rink was named after Dorrington, and three years later, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian proclaimed March 15 as Art Dorrington Day.

“What he did for the community is second to none,” Stefan Rivard, a member of the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies East Coast Hockey League team from 2001-04, told The Press of Atlantic City. “Art’s thing was always to perform in the classroom and then sports were after that.”

Hue Jackson is spared, Jim Caldwell is not, now Jackson needs to win some games

Browns plan to bring back coach after 0-16 mark; Lions fire coach after winning season

9:09 AMOne has to look hard to find anything positive in the winless Cleveland Browns’ season, which mercifully ended Sunday after a 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to finish 0-16.

The Browns were a complete mess from start to finish. Former general manager Sashi Brown, who was fired Dec. 7, paid the price for this season’s ineptitude. But front-office makeovers are nothing new for this franchise.

What is surprising, however, is that the Browns don’t plan to make a coaching change. Head coach Hue Jackson, who’s African-American, will return next season, the team says. During two seasons with the Browns, Jackson is 1-31. His only victory came in Week 16 last season against the then-San Diego Chargers.

Compare that to the Detroit Lions, who on Monday fired Jim Caldwell, who is also African-American. Caldwell was let go despite posting a winning record in three of his four seasons with the Lions. Detroit made the playoffs twice under Caldwell, going 0-2, and missed the postseason this year at 9-7.

Considering the dearth of head coaches of color in the league – the number fell to seven with Caldwell’s firing – it’s good that the Browns appear to be giving Jackson every opportunity to prove he’s the right man for the job. And Jackson still has a lot to prove.

Sure, the Browns’ player personnel department has made some colossal errors. Remember: Cleveland passed on star quarterback Carson Wentz. Still, it’s hard to go winless during a 16-game schedule, as evidenced by the fact it has only happened twice.

It’s fair to say that Jackson needs to show a whole lot next season. He has to win some games.

Gettleman hiring keeps diversity numbers for NFL general managers the same

Give the Giants credit for interviewing two black candidates

8:07 AMOn Thursday, the New York Giants announced the hiring of Dave Gettleman as the team’s new general manager.

Gettleman, who was fired from the same position with the Carolina Panthers in July, replaces Jerry Reese, who was relieved of his duties along with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.

The hiring keeps the number of black general managers in the 32-team league at four — Rick Smith (Houston Texans), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) and Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins) — after the Cleveland Browns fired Sashi Brown on Dec. 7.

Although the Giants didn’t end up replacing Reese, who is African-American, with another black GM, they did take the league’s diversity hiring initiative, the Rooney Rule, more seriously than most other front offices have. The rule requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for every head-coaching or senior football operations position, although some teams hold what are essentially “token” interviews with black or brown candidates to check off a box.

The Giants, on the other hand, interviewed two black men for the position: Marc Ross, the team’s current vice president of player evaluation, and Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst and former player, pro scout and director of pro personnel.

Kevin Abrams, the Giants’ interim general manager, also interviewed. Gettleman returns to the Giants after having spent 15 seasons with the team, mostly as director of pro personnel. In Gettleman’s four-year tenure with the Panthers, the team made the playoffs three seasons in a row from 2013-15, including a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015. He was not a favorite of some of the franchise’s best players.

Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., running back DeAngelo Williams and cornerback Josh Norman sent parting shots at Gettleman when the Panthers announced his firing.