Jay Sharrers: First Black NHL Official

Jay Sharrers didn’t set out to make history; he just wanted to be part of the game he loved. When, as a teenager, it was clear that he wouldn’t make it to hockey’s elite level as a player, he simply vowed to get the NHL anyway he could.

At 16, he traded his hockey sweater for pinstripes. Six years later — after rising rapidly through the minor-hockey ranks, officiating in the Memorial Cup and at the World Juniors, and advancing through the minor pros —  Sharrers stepped onto the ice at the Boston Garden as the Bruins took on the Quebec Nordiques. It was Oct. 6, 1990. Sharrers, just 22 years old, became the first black official ever to work in the NHL. At the time, he didn’t think too much about it. When his thoughts strayed from the game itself, he was mostly focused on the fact that his boyhood idol, Guy Lafleur, was on the same ice as him, playing with the Nordiques in his final NHL season.

“For those first couple of years — being young and making the jump as quickly as I did — I really had to focus on not being star-struck by the guys I was on the ice with,” Sharrers says. “You had to try to not be a spectator and remember that you still had a job to do.”

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