Wild's Dumba on the significance of role in Black Ice documentary
Premiering on Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival, Black Ice - directed by Oscar nominee Hubert Davis and executive produced by LeBron James, Drake, and Maverick Carter - examines the role of Black players in Canadian hockey, from pre-NHL contributions to the game to the struggles against racism that continue to this day.
The documentary brings together women and men from both major and minor leagues and their stories of pain, bravery and excitement with hopes of a more inclusive future in the game.
Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba, a founding member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, spoke to TSN's Gino Reda about being able to contribute to the film.
Gino Reda: Matt, you joined PK Subban, Anthony Duclair, Sarah Nurse and so many more to share some very difficult stories in this movie, why was it so important to you to be part of this project?
Matt Dumba: Yeah, that list of names...I'm just honoured to be part of this. The journey for all of us has been different. It's crazy that a lot of the stories are the same, and I think it's important for us to be able to all heal and grow because I know there's thousands of kids across the nation - Canada, (United States) - that have some stories just like us as well, so to show them that they're not alone in this I think is very powerful.
GR: You were the first NHL (player) to kneel during the national anthems back in 2020. How far have we come since then and how much further do we need to go?
MD: That's a great question...there's definitely room to grow, there's still kids dealing with racism at the grassroots level and I think that's where it all starts. So it's being able to create programs in BIPOC communities, hopefully all the major cities across North America, being able to have more representation displayed in our sport.
My two favourite players are Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla and I didn't even realize why I liked them so much until we created this group and you feel real - it's empowering, you feel like you can finally be yourself. I think more kids, if they feel that way, if they feel it's safe to go to the rink and not have to deal with these things on a daily basis - that will be when we can stop.
But we're still a long way from there and it's going to take all of us - not just us players of colour but white players, everyone, through all the ranks. It's not just players; it's parents, coaches, the staff at the rink, referees, everyone holding each other accountable... there's no room for silence anymore. If you see someone being wronged, you have to step up and say something.
GR: Matt, I've known you for a long time and I get the sense listening to your voice that there's still a lot of emotion there. Has this been a real difficult journey for you personally, having to take the time and sit back and look at some of the experiences you've been through?
MD: Yeah, and I think that's why some of us got choked up in our interviews for the movie...you bury that stuff. That's 10, 11, 12-year-old Matt Dumba just trying to put that stuff behind him and try to take the high road, put your head down, work, and I always knew that I would have to deal with it and it was just about me managing my own emotions. I was one of the lucky ones.
I've seen a lot of kids get pushed away from the game because of racism and that really sucks. I hate to see it. I was lucky, I had a good friend group, Mom and Dad were there to support me through it and be there for me when you're too young to really understand it. Now I'm 28-years-old and hoping I can stand up for my younger self and all the kids that are going through it today.
That's why we created HDA, the Hockey Diversity Alliance, to slowly help those kids and eradicate racism from our game because it's just not right, it's not fair and everything that I've gained and everything my family has been blessed with through hockey - the memories, the friendships - I just want other kids to be able to experience that. And I do think...I go back to my speech all the time but...I think that hockey is such a great game, I just wish it could be more inviting and more accepting of people's differences and that we can all come together and enjoy the game for all the right reasons.
GR: Matt, I know this is not easy for you to share and I know it's very important for you to do so and we really appreciate all that you've gone through to get this message out there and we certainly hope that the young Matt Dumbas listening right now can learn and grow that much more quickly; congratulations again on this and thanks for taking the time to join us.