Inclusion on the Ice

Edina alum affirms that “Hockey is for Everyone”

Anthony+Walsh+poses+with+his+team+after+their+state+championship+victory+in+2013

Courtesy of Anthony Walsh

Anthony Walsh poses with his team after their state championship victory in 2013

By Mia DiLorenzo, Edina High School

Edina High School alum Anthony Walsh’s career has been nothing short of historic. As a member of the Edina Boys’ Hockey State Championship team in 2013, Walsh helped Edina clinch a 4-2 victory over Hill-Murray. Let’s Play Hockey named his championship five-hole goal the “play of the game,” and his leadership throughout the regular season mirrored this dedication. Former teammates remember him as “the fastest guy on the team” and Walsh’s famed optimism was a constant beacon of support. Even so, as the only Black player on Edina’s team, he faced the brunt of racism within the hockey sphere.

While playing against a private school in the Twin Cities, Walsh encountered racist comments and actions by another athlete. “It was super quiet at the face-off. And this guy was like ‘Walsh, go eat a banana.’ It was super messed up and this person wrote an apology to me later on, and they were kicked off the hockey team,” Walsh said. “But I felt really bolstered by that because people actually cared about this…there really had never been anything done about [racism in hockey] before.”

Walsh recalls a moment during a summer training session in which an opposing player repeatedly used the N-word. Rather than addressing the issue with the white athlete, coaches attempted to hold Walsh back from any sort of retaliation.

“Instead of telling young Black players not to react, why aren’t you telling the white players, like, stop saying this kind of stuff? I don’t condone violence at all, but we need to stop trying to restrain these kids that are being called the N-word versus getting these people to stop saying it,” Walsh said.

Following his Hornet tenure, Walsh competed in Canada for a junior league team—the highest level of amateur hockey. However, his career was marked by periods of isolation and discrimination which contributed to his eventual hockey retirement.

“It was a cool ride, it was fun,” Walsh said. “But I did have a lot of racial experiences still happening [in Canada] and to not have a support system, as you would with your family or friends, kind of pushed that ball forward.”

Walsh took a break from athletics and focused on his education. He studied history, attended college, and was accepted into law school—hockey was nearly in the past.

But Walsh said it himself: “Once a hockey player, always a hockey player.” After graduating, he reflected on the consistent microaggressions he faced on the ice and the lack of representation in the sport.

Anthony Walsh

“When George Floyd was lynched, I did see a lot of disturbing things from people I played against. I came back to [hockey] a little bit to kind of be like, ‘Let me take inventory about what’s going on,’” Walsh said. “It hasn’t changed very much and I’ve seen that it hasn’t.”

Deciding to put pen and paper to his experiences, Walsh wrote an initial draft of a hockey-based children’s book and shared it with close family members. Encouraged by the positive responses, he reached out to a number of publishing agencies and presented his forthcoming book, “Hockey is for Everyone.” Soon to be distributed, Walsh’s book will be available in the summer of 2022 through Strive Publishing.

The story follows a young Black hockey player, Anthony, as he navigates the predominantly white sport. Despite repeated taunts and microaggressions—the opposing players often question why Anthony isn’t playing basketball—he perseveres and focuses on growing the game with a supportive team.

“I’m really proud of him that he’s finally kind of being able to speak out and raise awareness in Edina, of all places in Minnesota, because it obviously took a toll on him. And he doesn’t want that to happen to other kids,” former Edina teammate Matt Nelson said. Nelson and Walsh recall inclusion within their Edina team, but both recognize the pervasive racism in the broader hockey sphere.

“It’s gotten better, but in a relative sense—like if the knife is in eight inches, and you pull it out to six,” Walsh said. He hopes that the increased Black representation in the hockey world, like that of “Hockey is for Everyone,” will increase the enrollment of young Black athletes.

“I wasn’t able to pick up a hockey book and see myself playing and to feel like I was the protagonist,” Walsh said. “It would have been super impactful. And I don’t feel as though my career was lacking or anything, but at the end of the day, it would have been nice to be able to see myself as the protagonist in the hockey world.”

This story was originally published on Zephryus on May 5, 2022.