To ensure that Herb Carnegie’s legacy endures long after his death, the family is re-dedicating a North York community centre named in his honour 13 years ago.
With support from then city parks and recreation administrators Ken Jeffers and Fay Grange and former Harriet Tubman Community Organization president Winston Klass, North York Centennial Centre was re-named Herbert H. Carnegie Centennial Centre on May 2, 2001.
Inside the multi-purpose arena, which is home to the Ontario Junior Hockey League team North York Rangers, were photographic and other displays sharing the story of Carnegie, who turned the disappointment of not playing in the National Hockey League because of his skin colour into triumph by launching the Future Aces Creed 58 years ago to enhance the overall development of young participants in the Future Aces Hockey School he and Doug Hester established in 1955 at Mitchell Field.
As an 18-year-old in 1938, Carnegie got a taste of racism’s sharp sting when Toronto Maple Leafs founder, Conn Smythe, said he would take the Black player immediately if he could find someone who could turn him White. Carnegie, who died in March 2012 at age 92, often tearfully spoke of the devastating effect the negative remark had on his life, but he never allowed it to cloud his vision.
The re-dedication ceremony takes place tomorrow (September 19).
“There was a dedication plaque that eventually was damaged by the sun and removed from the outer lobby hall in front of the building and a broken glass frame of a photo line story hanging on the walls of the Silver Dollar Room in the arena was taken down and never replaced,” said his daughter, Bernice Carnegie. “Another sign on the press box with my father’s name was taken down and replaced with a painted lettering. Nothing was left to let the public know why the arena had been named in my father’s honour.”
While the centre’s management footed the bill to repair the display cabinet, the Carnegie family paid for the other repairs and upgrades that include paintings and banners with a collage of Carnegie’s achievements.
Mark Stoddart, a local artist, will unveil a painting of Carnegie that will be displayed in the arena.
“I don’t think there’s enough Canadian representation of our Black heroes,” said Stoddart, whose paintings reflect his commitment to celebrate the passion, struggle and accomplishments of Black entertainers and athletes.
Grade 11 students Summer Mackie and Sarah Gubala’s artistic expressions of Carnegie and his accomplishments are also displayed in the arena.
As part of the re-dedication ceremony, students from Greater Toronto Area schools, including the Herbert H. Carnegie Public School in York region and nearby Crawford Adventist Academy, will take part in a free skate in the arena.
“My father was thrilled and loved every moment of the process that led up to the facility being named after him,” said Bernice Carnegie. “That was truly a highlight in his life.”
Later today, Carnegie will be posthumously inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame at a gala at the Queen Elizabeth Centre.
It’s the 12th Hall of Fame induction for Carnegie, who retired from hockey four years before Willie O’Ree broke the colour barrier in January, 1958 with the Boston Bruins.
“It’s sad that he’s not around to experience this honour,” said his daughter. “The family will however be there to represent him and we are extremely proud that his name continues to live on.”
Hockey was not the only sport for which Carnegie had a passion.
A caddy at Thornhill Golf & Country Club in the 1930s and an Ontario junior championship runner-up in 1938, Carnegie won three senior provincial titles, two Ontario Senior Champion of Champion awards and back-to-back Canadian Seniors championships in 1977 and 1978. He was also a three-time Whitevale Club and four-time Summit Golf & Country Club (SGCG) champion.
Both clubs recognized his significant contributions by inducting him into their Wall of Fame and the SGCG made him an honorary life member.
Appointed to the Order of Ontario in 1996 and the Order of Canada seven years later, Carnegie is a member of the Owen Sound, International Afro-American and Canadian Sports Halls of Fame. He was also the recipient of a Harry Jerome President’s Award and an honorary doctorate from York University.