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Sandi Rankaduwa’s upcoming NFB doc Ice Breakers to shed light on the amazing story of hockey’s Black-Canadian pioneers. Today’s Black players the latest link in a long and proud Canadian legacy.


(Image provided by the NFB)

February 27, 2019 – Montreal – National Film Board of Canada

“There’s a pervading myth that hockey is a white man’s sport. Today, hockey players of colour from all levels, children to pros (and most recently in Quebec, their families) are still met with racial slurs and worse. But the truth is that many pillars in the foundation of hockey aren’t white. We’ve been fed a history that is infuriatingly inaccurate and I’m hoping this documentary can help change that. By paying homage to the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, this film will hopefully reframe how we see hockey while also telling athletes of colour that they not only have a place on the ice, but they’re part of a sports legacy.” – Director Sandi Rankaduwa

Principal photography is now underway on Ice Breakers, a National Film Board of Canada (NFB) short documentary by Sandi Rankaduwa that will explore the little-known Black-Canadian history of hockey and its Nova Scotian forefathers.

Ice Breakers will take us back to hockey’s Black roots in Nova Scotia with the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes (CHLM), established in 1895 by the sons and grandsons of Black Loyalists, Jamaican Maroons, and runaway African-American slaves who settled in Eastern Canada in the 1800s.

Produced by Rohan Fernando, Ice Breakers is part of Re-Imagining My Nova Scotia, a new three-part series of NFB short films by emerging and established filmmakers from Nova Scotia.

CHLM teams played a modern, hard-hitting, fast-paced style compared to white leagues of the time. And the league was home to many firsts: in 1900, Henry “Braces” Franklin of the Dartmouth Jubilees was the first goalie documented to use butterfly goaltending, while Eddie Martin of the Halifax Eurekas introduced the slapshot nearly 30 years before its credited white pioneer, Habs superstar Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, was even born.

The CHLM flourished until World War I, when the league collapsed. This in itself was a tragedy, but even more tragic is the fact that the league was essentially forgotten despite its significance in sports history. Today, Black hockey players remain subject to racism and are often seen as an anomaly in the sport. But in reality, they’re carrying the torch for an important—albeit regrettably little-known—Canadian tradition.

Sandi Rankaduwa is a Sri Lankan-Canadian writer and filmmaker who was named one of three BuzzFeed Emerging Writer Fellows for 2018. This is her third film.

Andrew MacCormack is the cinematographer for Ice Breakers, which is being executive produced for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio by Annette Clarke.


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  • About the NFB

    Founded in 1939, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is a one-of-a-kind producer, co-producer and distributor of distinctive, engaging, relevant and innovative documentary and animated films. As a talent incubator, it is one of the world’s leading creative centres. The NFB has enabled Canadians to tell and hear each other’s stories for over eight decades, and its films are a reliable and accessible educational resource. The NFB is also recognized around the world for its expertise in preservation and conservation, and for its rich and vibrant collection of works, which form a pillar of Canada’s cultural heritage. To date, the NFB has produced more than 14,000 works, 6,500 of which can be streamed free of charge at nfb.ca. The NFB and its productions and co-productions have earned over 7,000 awards, including 11 Oscars and an Honorary Academy Award for overall excellence in cinema.