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Black hockey player hopes to inspire others to break the mold

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Kyle Reed said he “is just a dude.” The Canadian native from Calgary doesn’t mind talking about uncomfortable topics like almost giving up hockey when he was younger and being the only black player on Ohio State’s hockey team.

The senior said he likes when he gets odd looks for saying he plays forward for the hockey team. He said he likes being different, but also that it doesn’t matter when you get to the heart of the sport.

“I’ve been playing for so long that I don’t think about it,” he said.

Reed said in his hometown, kids playing hockey was just second nature. There is no black and white with hockey.

“There have been times when I’d been called the N-word or a lot of other things. Those types of words are a form of motivation,” Reed said. “I feel like I faced times of adversity, but those are also motivation tools.”

He said he’s been playing hockey since he was 4 years old and feels like he had skates on before shoes.

“My mom would take me down the street to the ice rink and she was the one who first taught me how to skate. She couldn’t even skate herself, but she put them on me,” Reed said. “I was meant for the ice, you know?”

But hockey wasn’t the only sport he played when he was younger.

“My first love is actually baseball. Playing hockey just kind of fell into place whenever baseball was finished,” Reed said. “When the season was over, it was just in time for hockey tryouts.”

Reed said he got into trouble as a kid and was considering quitting hockey, but his grandfather and brother convinced him not to.

“My grandpa was like, ‘I want to see you on TV one day.’ My brother said to not to do what he did and quit hockey,” Reed said. “It was at a crucial time in my life where I had to choose between hockey and baseball.

“A lot of times I learned the hard way, but sometimes that’s the best way to learn.”

The interview was interrupted by Reed’s neighbor and teammate, Sean Duddy, a defenseman from Ann Arbor, Mich. He was looking for salsa in the kitchen, but got pulled into the living room to talk about his close friend.

“‘Friends’ may be a stretch,” Duddy said, laughing. “But no, we’ve been playing for about three years together now. He’s a good guy, great teammate. He works his ass off. He’s the fastest skater I’ve ever seen.”

The guys shared a few joking moments before returning to the conversation.

Duddy took some time to think of his favorite memory of Reed.

“We’ve had good times together. When we were playing Miami my freshman year, Kyle got a hat trick,” Duddy said. “That’s my favorite memory of him from a hockey standpoint. He’s an explosive player.”

There are several other hockey players who live in their apartment complex, Duddy said. He said they’re as close as brothers.

“I’m very family-oriented. It’s hard hearing people say they’re going home for the weekend or for the holidays, whereas I have to pick up the phone,” Reed said. “Some of the guys I’m close with on the team, they give me that support.”

As for playing professional hockey after graduation, he said, “If you have the ability to play at a higher level, I think you have to take that opportunity to play in the NHL. I don’t want to be that 40-year-old guy still playing hockey in the lowest of the lowest minors just because I love the game.”

Reed, who’s studying strategic communication, said he thinks going to college and getting a better education is beneficial. He trained at the Atlanta Thrashers development camp in summer 2009. He said he would like to play hockey for as long as he can and then go into advertising.

He said one of his favorite parts about playing for OSU, as a black hockey player, is that he could be an inspiration for the black kids who come to get the players’ autographs.

“I think it’s good for them to see me playing hockey and see that anyone can do it,” Reed said. “Hopefully they look to me and say, ‘I can do what he does, too.'”

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