DEI Resources


“What’s Your Definition of Hockey Hair”

Although not specifically about lacrosse this article by Anson Carter, a retired NHL hockey player, gives insight on what having having “hockey hair” is all about.

Currently, one of our coaches has had the opportunity to have many players of color join his roster. The traditional lacrosse helmet is “one size fits all” with little adjustability. Wearing braids or other traditional hairstyles for players of color has presented a unique challenge and point of conversation for this white coach. This article helped provide some perspective and a way to talk with players.


All credit goes to the original poster of this article and the link is found below.


Original Post is found HERE

Hockey hair is a big deal.

The lettuce. The flow. Whatever you want to call it, there’s just something iconic and even majestic about the hairstyles that have become synonymous with hockey. I remember, when I was growing up, seeing Guy Lafleur skating down the ice, his hair billowing in the wind. I remember watching legends like Wayne Gretzky and Jaromír Jágr go full business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back in their mullet eras. Even during my time in the league, when Joe Thornton got drafted by the Bruins, I remember this big gangly kid who had these huge blonde curly locks flowing out of his helmet. Anyone who saw young Jumbo Joe must have been thinking the same thing: “That guy’s got pretty sweet flow.”

But what if you play hockey and your hair is different from nearly everyone else’s in the league? What if you’re Black? What if your hockey hair just so happens to be … dreadlocks?

Well, in that case, the answer is: It’s complicated.

I found that out firsthand back in 1997.

During my second season with the Bruins, I wanted to change up my look. So I spent two hours one game day afternoon at a salon in Dorchester having a loctician separate each section of my hair into locs, applying beeswax to help it lock up fast and tight.

I didn’t think it’d be a big deal at the time, or that there might be a negative response. But I didn’t tell any of my coaches or teammates about it, so I actually remember that I tried sneaking into our locker room that night before anyone could notice. Of course, it was just my luck that I arrived at the exact same moment as our head coach, Pat Burns.

To this day, I can still see the look he gave me — big eyes, like a real-life emoji. Then came his reaction: “Oh, you’re definitely starting tonight.”

When I got out on the ice for the national anthem – with my helmet in my hand and 17,000 fans staring at me — I remember finding a spot on the blue line as close to our bench as possible. It was my way of trying to blend in. I looked over at Burnsie and our assistant coach, Jacques Laperrière, who were both getting a kick out of the attempt. It may not have been successful, but after I made it through that game, I never looked back. From there, that was my hair in pro hockey for the next 10 seasons.

And I swear, at the time, my brain was just looking at it as a new style. Nothing more. For most of my life, I’ve been my own barber — I even used to cut other kids’ hair in the neighborhood, calling myself “Cut Carter.” In my freshman year at Michigan State University, I went with a high-top fade, because I was really into Kid ’n Play (… that’s a whole other story). Then, when Michael Jordan was at the peak of his excellence, I wanted to emulate MJ. So I shaved off my hair to match his. That phase lasted through my first season with Boston. At one point that year, my teammates ended up betting me $10,000 that I wouldn’t grow an afro … which is how my afro phase started. Easy money. And then, about a year into the afro era, my sister, Michelle, casually dropped a suggestion: “Why don’t you twist your hair? You know, lock it up and see what happens?”

It really was as simple as that.

Except it couldn’t be that simple, right? Because most things about being a Black hockey player aren’t. And no matter where you look in society, it’s hard to ignore the reality that Black hair is often seen as political.

Maybe it’s not always stated outright, but the subliminal messages are there: If you want to be respected, or taken seriously, or seen as “professional,” traditional Black hairstyles and natural hair aren’t the way to go. Not to mention the added assumptions specifically for dreadlocks. You’ve heard them — the idea that if someone has locs, they’re probably a criminal, or a bad person, or not very clean. Or that they must smoke a ton of weed. These are stereotypes in everyday society. But when you put them in the context of hockey culture, where players are conditioned to fit in at all costs? My hair was definitely breaking the rules by standing out.

So, yeah, during my career I found out that, unfortunately, there were people in the hockey world who thought locs couldn’t be — or shouldn’t be — an option for players in the National Hockey League.

Here’s an example: In the second half of my NHL career, when my locs grew very long, a high-level member of the front office for my team at the time told me point-blank: “Carter, you should cut your hair. It doesn’t look good.”

Now, I’m all for different opinions when it comes to style — everyone’s entitled to their perspective, and guys on the ice were definitely chirping me about my hair at that time. But in this circumstance, let’s unpack what good really seemed to mean in that context.

This was not an executive who had a reputation for telling players to keep their hair short. This wasn’t a situation like with the New Jersey Devils when they had a team rule against hair going past your shoulders. And there were tons of players — white players — who grew their hair long and had classic flow while playing for this team.

So I’ll tell you how I interpreted good: It was code for “how hockey players are supposed to look.” And I wasn’t with that. At all. So it was advice that I had no problem ignoring … because I never once forgot who I was — a Black man playing the game of hockey. I had no doubt that a hockey player could look like a Black man with a Black hairstyle.

It wasn’t something I was trying to promote or defend or make a show of. Just a fact. And I guess some people around the game still needed to learn it. Or, even beyond that, I feel like maybe some people needed to think a bit more broadly about whether we should really be trying to define and regulate what a hockey player is “supposed to look like.” About whether we should be judging people based on their appearance.

I remember this one fan interaction in Edmonton, while I was still playing for the Bruins, when I was checking out the stores and cafés in the city’s main shopping area. I was walking down the street and saw a group of people heading in my direction who were just … looking at me. Three of them. Not saying anything. But paying enough attention that it came off as odd.

As I got closer, they crossed the street. So then I was trying to rationalize it in my head — maybe they were looking for a specific store? Not quite. They waited until I walked a little farther ahead, and then they crossed back over again.

It was pretty clear at that point: They’d crossed the street to get away from the Black guy with locs, based on whatever stereotypes they attached to people who look like me.

The funny thing is, within seconds, I heard a different group yelling from across the street: “Carter! Carter! Ace! Can we get a picture?” These other guys were walking toward me. They were NHL fans who recognized who I was. And suddenly, the group that originally tried to walk away wanted to pull up, too.

Our conversation went like this:

Me: “Oh hey, what’s going on? I saw you cross the street.”

Them: “Well, we didn’t know who you were. Can we get a picture, too?”

Me: “Nope!”

And I kept it moving.

I didn’t fall in line, but I also didn’t let it get to me. And it was always the same whenever my hair got a negative reaction, too: Keep it moving. Because for every “negative” interaction, there were always a thousand positive ones — inspiring moments, or instances when a fan or a young kid showed me love and support. (The irony of the Edmonton story is that I was traded there shortly afterward, and the fans were amazing and treated me with so much respect.) Those uplifting moments, they always matter a million times more than the negative stuff — it’s a humbling feeling to meet a Black hockey fan and learn that your hair helped them feel seen in a sport that hasn’t always had their back. It’s an indescribable honor when you hear a Black parent say, “We bought some of your old action figures, where your locs are showing, so our kids would feel comfortable growing their hair out.”

And over the years it’s been very cool to see some of the other Black players who have embraced cultural hairstyles, in whatever form feels right to them.

I’m thinking of my buddy Georges Laraque, who started growing his locs around the same time I grew mine. (After he made fun of me for it! You still owe me for that, Big Georges.) I’m also thinking of times when P.K. Subban let his afro grow out, when JT Brown got braids, and when Ryan Reaves showed off his fade. Mathieu Joseph, now on the Senators, has rocked all these hairstyles. And K’Andre Miller, part of the Rangers’ young core, has embraced his natural texture for years.

Whether they realize it or not, these guys have inspired a new generation of Black kids to bring their authenticity to the game. I’ve seen the fruits of that inspiration up close in my adopted hometown of Atlanta, where there are diverse boys and girls trying hockey for the first time, coming to practice with their hair braided up under their helmet.

Atlanta became home for me right after my playing career. And, sure, if there’s one thing I learned very quickly about the city, it’s that it’s way too hot for a heavy head full of locs. So I said goodbye to them and shaved my hair for good. But I’ve also learned some more important things about this place — like how Atlanta is a hub for driving culture forward, with authenticity and representation at the forefront of a highly diverse metro area. It’s why I recently became a minority owner of the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators. There’s such a great opportunity to embrace and amplify diversity in professional hockey by building on the culture of the city. And the more we wrap our arms around fans who haven’t traditionally felt connected to hockey, the more we can help to create a new era of inclusion in the game. It’ll take everyone to make that era happen — from minor pro leagues to the NHL itself. But anyone who’s followed hockey during the past few years can tell you that things are shifting. It really feels like the foundation for a new era is here — built by executives, fans, and players, including the ones I’m proud to collaborate with in the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, a group of current and former NHL players and women pros who work to advance equality on and off the ice.

At the end of the day, equality is really what this hair conversation is about. Black players, and other players of color, can only have an equal experience if they don’t feel like they have to erase or censor part of their culture to fit in. And hair is a big part of our culture — part of every culture’s traditions, personality, identity and expression. So when we think about what hairstyles are expected — and respected — under a hockey helmet … let’s not limit ourselves. Let’s keep broadening our perception of what representation looks like in this game.

The locs I had may not be for everyone. You can like them or hate them.

But don’t for a second try to convince me that they don’t belong in our game, or that those who choose to wear them are somehow not what a hockey player is supposed to look like.

Because for 10 of my 11 seasons in the NHL I played with dreadlocks flowing behind me, unapologetically, whenever I hit the ice. And I was proud to give everything I had to this game.

So if anyone’s still wondering….

Yeah, I’d say that makes it hockey hair.

3rd Annual Virtual LAX Keynote & Townhall w/ Virginia State University Lacrosse HBCU

LAX on the Yard is excited to host our 3rd annual virtual zoom BHM Keynote & Townhall discussion for Lacrosse Players, Parents, Coaches and supporters. This is a platform to engage in frank and honest conversation to promote DEI, while “Growing the Game” of Lacrosse.
February 26th, 5-7pm

Featured Keynote Speakers:

Ms. Ashley Lawrence
Head Coach, NCAA D2
Virginia State University Women’s Lacrosse

Mr. Shaun Church
Head Coach, NCAA D2
Virginia State University Men’s Lacrosse

Black History Month Resources – JFK Library

Here are a some great resources for your classroom/field for Black History Month.



Students consider what makes a non-violent protest march successful and by analyzing primary sources, they then evaluate the success of the 1963 March on Washington.

 Link Here


Students read and analyze segregation ordinances, and learn how Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists challenged these unjust laws through peaceful protest and civil disobedience during the 1963 civil rights campaign in Birmingham, Alabama. The lesson highlights the vital role that young people played in the campaign.

Link Here



Meet Vinnie Ricasio

How long have you been at Keio?  How long have they had a team?

My first year was in 2019, and we won the League Title for the first time in school history. Keio started their team back in 2011.


Do many of your guys have experience with lacrosse prior to being at Keio? If very few of them have any experience, do you find yourself falling in love with the sport even more as you help a new crop of kids get into this game each year? 

Most of the kids see lacrosse for the first time once they arrive at Keio. But, Keio Academy is a feeder school to Keio University in Japan where they have had a competitive international lacrosse program since the 80’s.

When dealing with a majority of neophytes and teaching them a new sport, I love the fact that I’m really making an impact in the international growth of lacrosse, since international growth is an indicator of the size of the sport. We may not possess the US homegrown talent, but Keio Academy players are connectors and barrier-breakers in the global growth of lacrosse.


How many of the guys on your team are students from abroad?  Where do the majority of the kids come from? Japan? Do you have any natural born citizens of the US that attend Keio?

Being a Japanese school, about 95% of the team is from Japan and goes back home during breaks and vacations, etc. The other percentage lives abroad in European cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels and other Asian cities like Singapore. Currently we have one kid from Providence, RI who was born in the US to Japanese parents.


In following you guys on twitter, it’s clear that your team loves playing this game.  What is it that attracted them to it? Now that they have played it for a while, what is it that makes them love playing it and being a part of the lacrosse world?

Keio University in Tokyo has four (4) teams in their university system. My players are aware of lacrosse in that capacity since the students will go back to Japan to study at Keio University after graduation. So, their start in Keio Academy is an appetizer to what they will play in the University – this is what I think sparks their interest. They know that after graduating Keio Academy, they will have an advantage playing in college with the US experience, and then if they keep going with it, onto a World Team roster for Japan in the World Games. That has been done before.

I know in talking with you when Covid hit, that you really had no contact with your team as the campus closed and the kids went home.  How were you able to keep those team bonds going as you had kids on your team a half-a-world away?

Like everyone, we did Zoom sessions with the team, and it was hard to see if anyone did anything during the strict lockdowns, especially overseas in Japan. Add in the time zone difference, and it was somewhat hard to focus. You can’t Zoom a sport as a competitive team. As half of the world enjoyed working from home, we knew that we wanted to get back on the field.


What (if any) struggles do your guys face in the lacrosse world?

  1. Lacrosse is still primarily a US and Canadian sport. With travel teams in the US starting at a young age, Keio players don’t start playing until they travel to the US.

  2. They learn both at a slow pace, but also jump into the sport cold and learn ‘on-the-job.’

  3. I have to remind refs at the beginning of each game that they don’t know the rules or terminology of the game – English is not their first language.  


What is your story?  I know you played at Kent and still play club ball but had you played before HS? What, or more importantly who, got you into the sport?

I went to the South Kent School and then Pratt Institute for college where I got my degree in Communications Design – Art Direction/Advertising/Marketing. After college, I missed the sport so much that I started two (2) men’s club teams in the NYC-area and still play in leagues, pick up games, and travel tournaments like Lake Placid (I’ll see you there!!!).


I remember seeing the sport being played on Long Island when I was young and tried it in 4th/5th grade through the Police Athletic League in NYC. My parents didn’t know (still don’t know) much about the sport, but my Mom said that I “should play goalie because it looks like the safest position…” True story. HAHA. 

I’m primarily self-taught, and there’s a lot of merit in that.


You are also the founder/owner of The Art of Lax, and I know that you have gotten to meet some real legends in the game as well as done some very special pieces. Was this a journey you always saw yourself taking?  Did you start off on another path but wanted to find a way to combine your love of art and lacrosse?  Have you found that your business has opened doors to unique experiences for you and your team? 

In high school I would find myself bored in class and draw lacrosse players in my notebooks to make time pass.

I started my professional career doing many stints in advertising, marketing, publishing, teaching, etc. The Art of Lax was originally my senior thesis in art school, but it never got the attention or feedback due to being in the ‘wrong crowd’ – artists. Once I got back to playing lacrosse after college, it was ironically the athletes – people not known for their artistic creativity – that motivated and gave me the ability to reignite an idea and make The Art of Lax™ into the career that I always wanted. I never saw it as a business, at first, but when it got a high demand, I shifted my focus from a hobby/experiment to having unfinished business from my college days. I have to be very careful when saying this, but playing lacrosse has been more powerful than my college degree.

When coaching at Keio Academy I don’t carry my The Art of Lax™ mentality on the field, but it brings a smile to my face when the Athletic Dept and players ask me to design their uniforms and gear.


As someone in such a unique situation as being at Keio, what is one piece of advice you would give to all laxers?

The games do count. Like they say in any sport, Lacrosse is just a game, but what it is a teaching tool in a bigger, more important game called Life. You’ll be so surprised 10, 15, 20 years down the road when something challenges you and you refer to your lessons and accomplishments on the lacrosse field to overcome and achieve personal success. 


Link to Keio University in Japan-

Recommended Reading – Black History Month

Many of us have been inspired by something we have read. As a committee we decided to share some of our most inspirational and informative reads with you.

Waking Up White by Debbie Irving: Irving’s discovery of her own privilege helped me to see mine and recognize that much of why I have the opportunities I have had is because I am white. – Eamon Thornton


This book will open your eyes to the systemic practices put in place many years ago that have led us to where we are today. – Sean Hamon


How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi provided me with clear definitions, personal stories, and historical evidence to help me to see how racism works, where it comes from, and what must be really done to eradicate it. – Eamon Thornton


I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown: The glimpses Brown gives into her own life as a black woman are powerfully moving and helped me be more sympathetic to issues that affected her identity that had gone largely unnoticed from my white male perspective. – Eamon Thornton

Blazers Blog

This website, in partnership with USA Lacrosse is packed full of information about the minority lacrosse experience. Click on the logo to be redirected.



USA Lacrosse Magazine has partnered with Blaxers Blog to produce a series of stories that illuminate the minority lacrosse experience and promote the accomplishments of those individuals who have defied stereotypes to succeed in the sport. Read more here.


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