By Ken Wiebe
The Winnipeg Sun
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Maxime Fortunus knows he is one of the lucky ones.
The second-year Manitoba Moose defenceman, who began his professional career in the ECHL, says that despite the colour of his skin, he hasn’t encountered much racism on the ice during his hockey career.
Fortunus understands many of the black hockey players who came before him encountered various forms of abuse along the way and he’s happy they had the courage to blaze the trail.
“I remember my mom and dad telling me that you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and whatever people say about you, that’s their problem,” Fortunus said during an interview with the Sun to discuss Black History Month. “It could have been an excuse for me. You could say it didn’t work out or that people didn’t like me because I was black, but I don’t see it that way.
“I’m lucky. If it would have been 20 years ago, I’m not sure what I would have gone through. I was reading Herb Carnegie‘s book last year and it was incredible how people were thinking back (in the 1940s and 1950s).”
One of the lines that stands out from A Fly in a Pail of Milk: The Herb Carnegie Story, was New York Rangers general manager Frank Boucher explaining that if Carnegie was white, he could have played in the NHL. Carnegie’s grandson, Rane Carnegie, plays for Bakersfield in the ECHL and was selected to play in the ECHL All-Star Game.
Fortunus grew up in La Prairie, Quebec, and was an active youngster who took a liking to a variety of sports, including soccer and hockey.
Twice he attended the hockey school of Reggie Savage, a fellow black hockey player from Quebec whose 14-year career included 34 NHL games with the Washington Capitals and Quebec Nordiques.