Michael Herringer played between the pipes for the Kelowna Rockets from 2014 to 2017. (Warren Henderson photo)

Michael Herringer played between the pipes for the Kelowna Rockets from 2014 to 2017. (Warren Henderson photo)

Former B.C. goaltender speaks out about racism in Canadian hockey, society

Michael Herringer shared his personal experiences on Instagram June 5

Amid worldwide discussions on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, a former Kelowna Rockets goaltender took to social media to share his experiences with the racism embedded in the culture of Canadian hockey.

Michael Herringer was a goaltender for the Rockets of the Western Hockey League from 2014 to 2017 before moving to the University of Regina. Born in Haiti, Herringer was adopted at 14 months old by a family in Courtenay, B.C., and currently lives in Victoria.

On Friday, June 5, Herringer shared a personal account of the racism he’s experienced in Canadian hockey and broader society in a post to Instagram.

“I’ve held off from saying anything for a bit because I couldn’t really verbalize how I’ve felt through all of this,” begins Herringer’s post.

“I’ve read and seen some pretty terrifying things in the news over the last while that hurts me to my core and shakes my faith in humanity. But at the same time there’s been so much beauty through all of this,” Herringer continues.

The 24-year-old detailed his time growing up as an adopted child in Courtenay, B.C, through to his time spent in Major Junior hockey.

“I was the obvious minority everywhere I went,” he states.

”As a young kid I didn’t really understand that people saw me differently. In my mind I was just another kid on the hockey team or another kid in the Grade 2 class photo.”

READ MORE: Protests shift to memorializing George Floyd amid push for change

“I would forget I was the ‘black kid’ until a coach, teammate, classmate or parent would point out how I stood out in a photo, or how it was weird that a black kid liked country music, or they would refer to me as ‘the black kid from Courtenay,’” Herringer says, adding that as a teenager he would brush aside his feelings on such “seemingly harmless remarks” out of fear for how they would be received.

“I didn’t want to be seen as soft or dramatic so I let them go.”

During his time in junior hockey, the comments only got more vitriolic.

“I’d get every kind of racist remark you could imagine from fans almost every time we’d play anywhere other than Kelowna,” he said of his time spent with the Rockets.

Herringer says he grew accustomed to the racist insults, viewing it as part and parcel of being in an opposing team’s building. He heard other, non-racialized insults directed at his other teammates and as far as he knew, the comments he was forced to absorb were “the norm.”

READ MORE: ‘I just felt I had to do something’: Vernon Black Lives Matter protest organizer

“But there’s something really wrong when a 17-year-old boy while playing the sport he loves is being singled out and openly told by an adult to go back to the plantation or that ‘my people’ know nothing about hockey and I should stick to basketball or cotton picking,” his post continues.

“The worst part is I’d mostly be embarrassed while this was going on, that something completely out of my control was causing a scene, and I’d just hope my coaches or teammates wouldn’t hear so they wouldn’t think any differently of me.”

Now in his 20s, Herringer says he has “tremendous respect” for police officers, but is heartbroken that he still feels compelled to fear them.

“I can’t imagine how I’ll explain to my kids one day that the people whose job it is to keep you safe might want to harm you because of the way you look, through no fault of your own.”

Herringer’s post ends on an optimistic note, despite all the things he’s heard from fans while between the pipes, or the looks of trepidation he still gets while walking down the street.

“I love who I am, I didn’t always, but I wouldn’t change it for the world now.

“It’s time that things change. And not just the smaller things that happen on the daily. This has to be a worldwide effort … I still believe it’s going to happen one day.”


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

hockey

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Black Press Media file photo
Tofino sets municipal tax rates

Tofino’s residential property values are rising while businesses are declining.

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Amphitrite Point lighthouse on Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail during a massive winter storm. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan public hearing goes ahead despite push back

A petition calling on Ucluelet council to postpone the May 13 virtual event fails to deter

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Most Read