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John Frederick Utendale

Hockey Pioneer- Inducted 2024

Dr. John Frederick Utendale forged an honourable path in professional hockey, challenging racial barriers entrenched in the all-white National Hockey League during the 1950s. Alongside a handful of peers, he stood on the cusp of breaking the NHL’s colour barrier. Dr. Utendale made history as one of the first Black players to sign an NHL contract, joining the Detroit Red Wings in 1955 and bravely confronting longstanding prejudices.

After his playing days, Dr. Utendale became a pivotal figure in promoting diversity and inclusion in post-secondary education. He made history as the first athletic director and hockey coach at NAIT in 1966. He was also one of the first Black members of the USA Olympic men’s hockey program, serving as a training coach for the gold medal-winning 1980 USA Men’s Hockey team, famously known for the ‘miracle on ice.’

In recognition of his groundbreaking contributions, Dr. Utendale was honoured in 2023 as a member of the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame induction class. His barrier-breaking achievements were further celebrated in 2022 through a House Bill by the Washington State Legislature, acknowledging his role as an athlete, educator, and civil rights trailblazer. Additionally, he was inducted into the Western Washington University Athletic Hall of Fame and received Black History Month recognition from both the Edmonton Oilers and the Seattle Kraken in 2023.

Beyond his sporting achievements, Dr. Utendale made significant strides in academia. He joined Western Washington State College (now University) as the first Black faculty member of the Woodring College of Education. Over a quarter-century, he led the Student Personnel Administration graduate program, substantially increasing minority representation. Dr. Utendale’s academic prowess earned him national recognition and tenure as a full professor. He also held influential roles in the Washington state community, including leadership positions in Higher Education Administration.

Dr. Utendale’s legacy as a pioneer in hockey, education, and civil rights continues to inspire, resonating across generations and leaving an indelible mark on sports and academia alike.