|Richard Lord, courtesy of The Globe and Mail|
Through an piece in the Canadian Globe and Mail, I recently learned of the playing career of the late Richard Lord. While he was known in his hometown of Montreal as a successful engineer and notable figure within the Quebec Liberal Party, Lord also had the distinction of being one of the first Black collegiate hockey players. He first enrolled in Michigan State in 1949, majoring in chemical engineering.
The son of Caribbean immigrants, Lord was known for his tremendous work ethic and his way with people. As a youth, he excelled at hockey. He also noticed that kids from Saint-Henri didn't have access to the game quite like kids from wealthier neighborhoods. In response, as a teenager, he formed the Tornadoes Boys Club, which formed hockey as well as baseball teams. Edward Kalil, one of the young men who participated in Tornadoes, mentioned Lord's desire to mentor and share knowledge with others.
Michigan State, today a collegiate hockey powerhouse (producing many NHL players), had been disbanded in 1930 because of the Great Depression. The suspension continued throughout World War II. The club was reinstated in 1949 and recruited Lord through a scholarship.
Lord's time with the club, as well as his treatment at Michigan State, were not without controversy.
While Lord claims he got along with his white roommate (a fellow Canadian), interracial housing was seen as taboo at the time. They parted ways after only a month rooming together. Housing would also prove difficult during road trips to face visiting teams, particularly in Denver. Despite such obstacles, Lord was second on the Spartans in scoring in his first year on the varsity squad, winning over teammates who felt a Black player shouldn't be on the team. Lord also mentioned the fact that he received the highest number of penalties during his time at Michigan State. He was quoted as saying: "I got quite a few penalties because everyone was going after me. I didn't retaliate; I just gave the guy a good bodycheck, and the whistle would go."
As a student, the Montreal native also faced discrimination from a professor. He told the incident to an acquaintance, who happened to be the wife of a Engineering faculty member. Lord was advised to drop the class and it seems the professor was dismissed by the next academic year.
After graduating, Lord eventually found work City of Montreal's public works department and flourished in a successful career in government.
Of his time at Michigan State, Lord said: "Paulson led the way, and I guess I was a proper candidate, unknown to them. They didn't know I was an organizer of all things. I came down and I didn't let people calling me names provoke me or go out of my mind."
Written by Toni
The Globe and Mail