History of San Jose Sharks Black Hockey Players
In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be fun to spotlight Black players who have played with the San Jose Sharks throughout their history. While the number of black players who dressed in teal may not be large, there are certainly some who have made an impact. Since their inception, the Sharks have featured black players on their roster, so let’s take a look at who they were and what kind of impact they had.
Dale Craigwell (1991-94)
Dale Craigwell was the Sharks’ 10th draft pick, 199th overall in 1991. The Toronto, Ont., native was coming off a strong season for the Oshawa Generals in the OHL, where he nearly reached two points per match. In his minus one draft season, he won the Memorial Cup with the Generals. During his draft season, he scored three points in seven games en route to a gold medal for Canada at the World Junior Under-20 Championship.
During the Sharks’ inaugural season, Craigwell split his time between the NHL and the Kansas City Blades, who played in the International Hockey League (IHL). His first professional season was a successful one, as he scored half a point per game in 32 games for the Sharks and more than for the Blades en route to the IHL Turner Cup. After those first 32 games, Craigwell would only play 65 more NHL games, all with the Sharks over the next two seasons.
Craigwell ended his career between the IHL, Germany’s top league, DEL, and Britain’s top league, BISL, where he won a championship in 2000-01, his last professional season. While he may not have had the highest point totals of some of the players on this list, he should be remembered as the Sharks’ first black player and breaking the color barrier for the team. . Unfortunately for him, his first season in the NHL was his best.
Mike McHugh (1991-92)
Mike McHugh had a fairly minor role for the Sharks. He was not drafted by any NHL team and rose through the ranks of the NCAA, IHL and AHL. During the Sharks’ inaugural season, he played in eight games, scoring just one goal. He never played in an NHL game again after that season, and his professional career ended in 1998 as captain of the AHL Hershey Bears. He won the Calder Cup in 1997, earning the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for AHL Playoff Most Valuable Player.
Mike Grier (2006-09)
Mike Grier was probably one of the most memorable black players to play for the Sharks, mainly because he played for the team when they were really good. They made the playoffs every year he was in San Jose and reached the conference semifinals in three of four seasons. He was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and signed with the Sharks after nine successful NHL seasons.
While Grier wasn’t a big scorer, he never scored more than 33 points with the Sharks, but he was a good even-strength defensive player. He was physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 225 pounds, and he had 119 and 147 hits in his final two seasons with the Teal team. He was definitely the kind of player that made the Sharks difficult to play against.
Derek Joslin (2008-11)
Derek Joslin was a fifth-round pick for the Sharks in 2005. He scored at a fairly high rate for Ottawa’s 67 in the OHL and had nearly half a point per game for the Worcester Sharks of the AHL. There was a lot of hope for Joslin that he could be a scoring defenseman in the NHL. There were always concerns about his defensive game, but he seemed to be progressing as a professional.
Unfortunately, in his 70 NHL games between 2008 and 2011, he struggled a lot. His expected goals per 60 minutes (xGA/60) and his expected goals against Corsi per 60 minutes (xCA/60) were both nearly one standard deviation below the average for his NHL peers, according to Evolving Hockey. Likewise, the offensive creativity that was there at lower levels just wasn’t there in any appreciable amount to offset his defensive apprehensions.
Joslin is still playing hockey in 2022. After leaving the NHL after the 2012-13 season, he played one season in the SHL for AIK, then five seasons in the DEL. Finally, for three seasons, he has been playing in Austria. Although he did not find success in the NHL, he was able to repeat as DEL champion in 2016-17 and 2017-18 with EHC Munchen.
Jamal Mayer (2010-11)
Jamal Mayers only played one season with the San Jose Sharks, in 2010-2011. The team was hoping to add a solid defensive tackle for a long playoff streak. They had a long playoff streak, until the conference finals, where they lost in five games to the Vancouver Canucks.
Mayers finally earned his name on the Cup, which took place the following season. While a member of the Cup-winning 2011-12 Chicago Blackhawks, Mayers did not play a significant role in the playoffs. He only played three games, but only one is enough to get your name on the Cup. He also played 81 regular season games, which would have been enough to get his name on there anyway. Even though he didn’t play more than a season, he made valuable contributions and helped the Sharks come closer to the Cup than ever before.
Joel Ward (2015-18)
Joel Ward has never been drafted by an NHL team. He was a good player but not amazing in the OHL for the Owen Sound Platers. After graduating from the OHL without an NHL contract, he attended the University of Prince Edward Island, where his game continued to develop. During his senior season, he scored 44 points in 28 games and he began to attract the attention of NHL teams.
After entering the NHL in 2006 with the Minnesota Wild, Ward played for the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals before ending his career with the Sharks. His first season with the Sharks was the most memorable season in team history. Despite finishing third in the Pacific Division, the Sharks won the Western Conference and made it to their only Stanley Cup Finals in team history. Although not the most offensive player on this list, Ward can be considered the Black Sharks’ MVP.
Ward is the only member on this list to have played for the Sharks in the Cup final, and he was one of the most important pieces. His defensive play was exceptional, tipping the ice in the team’s favor when he was on the field. For such a solid defensive player, he contributed more than half a point per game in 24 playoff games that season, including seven goals. Unfortunately, the Sharks couldn’t repeat their success in his final two seasons with the team, and Ward retired a Shark at the end of the 2018 season.
Evander Kane (2017-21)
Of course, the most controversial figure on this list, Evander Kane came to the Sharks via trade during the 2017-18 season. His third NHL franchise gave him another chance after documenting problems with teammates and off the ice while playing for the Winnipeg Jets and Buffalo Sabres.
Since joining the Sharks, controversy has followed Kane, and the relationship ended unceremoniously when the Sharks terminated his contract on January 8, 2022. The NHLPA disputes this action, and so the saga in San Jose is not over, but it’s clear Kane won’t fit in with the Sharks anymore.
On the ice, Kane has been an effective forward for the Sharks, leading the team through the 2020-21 season with 49 points in 56 games. It was during one of the team’s worst seasons, so his point totals were even more impressive. Prior to his peak performance in his final season, he was a consistent 60-point player who was physically imposing and difficult to play against.
The Sharks have had six black players in their 30-year history. Some of them were minor contributors like Joslin, McHugh, and Craigwell, while others like Mayers, Ward, and Kane were larger contributors. Hopefully, with increased diversity in the sport, there will be many more six black players in the next 30 years.
Victor Nuño is a physician in private practice in Santa Cruz and an associate professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine at the University of Touro in California. He has been an avid hockey fan since the San Jose Sharks joined the NHL in 1991. He plays, watches, and consumes anything hockey-related, but mostly the Sharks and AHL affiliate Barracuda. Moreover, he is the father of two beautiful young daughters and the husband of a wonderful wife. Follow me @VictorNuno12