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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Prince Rupert lawyer, Donald A. Silversides has been appointed to the BC Liberals Election Organizing Committee, announced the party on Jan 21. (Contributed photo)
Don Silversides appointed to BC Liberal election organizing committee

Prince Rupert lawyer is the current BC Liberals acting president

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Rose Sawka, a 91-year old Acropolis Manor resident received her COVID-19 vaccination on Jan. 20, one day after an outbreak was declared at the long-term care facility. Her son Terry Sawka visited with her through the window, like she is seen in an Oct. 2020 photo. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Acropolis Manor COVID-19 cases jump to 20 confirmed

Prince Rupert long term care facility received vaccinations

Illicit drug use has spread in the Northern Health region and overdose emergency calls increased in Prince Rupert by 29.5 per cent from 2019 to 2020. (Photo:THE NEWS/files)
Overdose emergency calls in Prince Rupert spikes by 43.6 % in five years

Northern Health issues illicit drug use warnings

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Mowi Canada West’s Sheep Pass salmon farm, the company’s final B.C. operation to receive certification from the Aquaculture Steward Council. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is questioning a government decision to phase out salmon farms in the Discovery Islands. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada West)
Canadian Federation of Agriculture backs B.C. salmon farmers

Letter to prime minister calls for federal “champion” for aquaculture growth

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read