As one of few Black hockey players on his team teams growing up, Elijah Roberts, said it was tough finding representation in hockey.
Other than an older cousin who took up the sport, Roberts said his family gravitated towards soccer, basketball and track and field.
The 24-year-old defenceman, now in his second year with the TMU Bold men’s hockey team, joined a USPORTS conversation discussing the intersections of race and athletics for student-athletes on Feb.27.
The conversation brought together Black athletes from each of the four USPORTS conferences to discuss their lived experiences in their chosen sport.
While the racism or prejudice was not always obvious to him when he was younger, Roberts recalls racist taunts becoming almost automatic from opposing players towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, Persons of Colour) who played a more aggressive style.
Looking back, Roberts remembers what happened “behind the scenes” away from scheduled games.
He recalls being referred to “P.K,” rather than his name when he was 13-years-old at the rink for practices and drills.
This is in reference to former Black NHL defenseman P.K Subban.
In moments like this, Roberts felt they ignored his own skillset and name as an individual, and grouping him with one who was one of the few Black NHL players.
Looking forward to the next 20 or 40 years, Roberts hopes the conversations on marginalized Black athletes can shift to more inclusiveness and awareness away from viewing them as outliers, especially in a predominately white sport like hockey.
Prior to joining the TMU in the 2021-22 Season, Roberts played parts of four seasons with the Kitchener Rangers and Niagara IceDogs.
Listen to TMU Bold’s Elijah Roberts on USPORTs conversations: