Join U SPORTS Conversations on February 27 at 7 p.m. ET as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant, will host the conversation. Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
Elijah Roberts dreamed of playing in the NHL from a young age. When he laced up his skates and handled his first hockey stick, Roberts knew hockey would be his happy place, where he would find peace and comfort. Despite a solid OHL career, totalling over 100 points as a defenceman with the Kitchener Rangers and the Niagara IceDogs, Roberts’ childhood hunger for the NHL lived on.
“A rookie in the OHL is not necessarily easy. I was 16 years old and had a fairly good year. Then the following year, my draft year, certainly was not up to my standards and the year that I wanted,” Roberts said.
In his early years in the OHL, Roberts gained plenty of wisdom and grew to become that veteran the young players on the team could look up to.
“When I got to Niagara, I was able to use what I learned to become a better teammate and leader. As much as I wanted to be drafted into the AHL or NHL, a big focus of mine was to mentor the rookies on the team since we had a young squad two of the three years I was there,” Roberts said.
Roberts’ talents are currently with the Toronto Metropolitan Bold in the OUA. From Brampton, Ontario, Roberts’ decision to stay home was based on family and the desire to be close to the people most dear to his heart.
While in Niagara with the IceDogs, Roberts became good friends with teammate Akil Thomas, who plays for the Ontario Reign in the AHL. The two shared a vision to amplify their voices and experiences. After numerous conversations, the pair decided to start a podcast called Soul on Ice which covers all things hockey and culture within the sport. The duo teamed up with Kwame Damon Mason, a pioneer in discovering Black hockey talent and coaches and an outstanding individual who knows the business of sports media.
“The podcast was intended to inspire the new generation of athletes, along with sharing their own personal stories. Additionally, seeing the number of individuals listening intrigued us to continue putting content out,” explained Roberts.
Roberts can see himself in the sports industry down the road, with interest in broadcasting.
Having navigated similar paths, former NHLer Joel Ward, who played 11 seasons, has been an inspiration to Roberts. So when he successfully landed Ward on the Soul on Ice podcast, the two discussed playing hockey as Black men and the difficulties that come with it.
“Personally, when opponents want to chirp me, I will give it back, but what is more important to me is silencing them with my play by scoring a goal or notching two assists,” said Roberts.
Roberts, a new father to a beautiful baby girl, knows how important it is to make calculated decisions moving forward, and he is forever grateful for the newfound joy and motivation that this bond has brought.
On January 9, Roberts was named OUA male athlete of the week after tallying five points and helping his team earn two wins. This was extra special for Roberts because his daughter was born a week prior.
“When my daughter was born, I was away from the team, I only had a few practices, but when gameday arrived, it was extremely motivating to have her in the building for the first time. Every time I play a game, she is my motivation,” said Roberts. “The athlete of the week and the good run I had in January is a complete credit to her, and she will continue to be that shining star for me every time I step on the ice.”
The same love for the game but a new motivation now fuels Roberts’ childhood hockey dreams.
Hear more from Elijah Roberts on Monday, February 27, at 7 p.m. ET. Join Roberts and other student-athletes, alums and administrators for U SPORTS Conversations as we examine the intersection between race and sports within the Black community. Karelle Edwards-Perry, 5x Team Canada hurdler, licensed mental health counsellor, and mental performance consultant, will host the conversation. Tune in live @USPORTSca on YouTube.
Jordan Stoddart is a Centennial College sports journalism student. A former NCAA division 1 soccer player who has embarked on a journey in sports media. He has written articles on gocolts.ca and broadcasted games for various varsity athletic teams for Centennial. Stoddart is also a youth basketball and soccer coach for the city of Mississauga.