Celebrating Black History Month: Q&A with GTHL’s Jalen Smith-Pelly

This February, in honour of Black History Month, the Greater Toronto Hockey League continues to celebrate the stories and contributions of so many in the game of hockey and our local communities.

As part of the celebrations, the latest spotlight is on Jalen Smith-Pelly, the GTHL’s Coordinator of League Scheduling. In his second full season as staff with the League, Smith-Pelly also grew up playing in the GTHL.

Q: Who got you into hockey? 

JSP: My older brother [Devante Smith-Pelly] played, so growing up I was always at the rink watching his games. Over time, I fell in love with the game and eventually decided that I wanted to play as well. 

Q: Looking back at minor hockey, do you have a favourite memory? 

JSP: Maybe not one memory in particular, but my favourite times were going to away tournaments with the team. It was always an amazing bonding experience and we always had so much fun together. 

Q: Now working in the sport, what led you to becoming part of the GTHL team? 

JSP: I went to college for Sports Management and Administration. I was able to get an opportunity to be an intern at the GTHL and once my time as an intern was up, I was offered a full-time job shortly after.  

Q: What are the main priorities of your role with the GTHL?   

JSP: My main priorities are scheduling the regular season and playoffs for all age groups and divisions, and approving permits for tournament exemptions.  

Q: What do you enjoy the most about working in hockey? 

JSP: What I enjoy most is that my role working in hockey and specifically the GTHL allows me to contribute to the growth and development of the sport in some capacity. I also work with great people that makes it an enjoyable experience to come into the office. Additionally, the fast-paced environment and ever-evolving challenges keep me engaged and motivated in my role. 

Q: What does being a person of colour in hockey mean to you? Is it something you thought about growing up playing, or something you think about now working in the game?  

JSP: It means a lot. I do believe that for younger kids, seeing people that look like them playing and working in the sport is important and inspires them to see themselves as worthy and capable of doing the same thing. Representation in sports challenges stereotypes and can encourage children to pursue their interests regardless of societal expectations. I know for me growing up, Jarome Iginla was one of my favourite players because he was one of the few black players in the NHL, but he was also one of the best players in the league as well. He was one of the first examples for me as a child realizing that not only can black players play in the NHL but also can excel there. 

Q: Did you have a role model growing up? Who was it?  

JSP: Jarome Iginla and Sidney Crosby were two people I looked up to just as professionals, hard workers, and leaders in the game of hockey. My older brother was probably my biggest role model and influence growing up, because I was obviously able to see the behind the scenes of all the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication needed to become a professional athlete and compete at the highest level of hockey.

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