Aeros addition breaking barriers in hockey
When Willie O’Ree broke the color barrier in the NHL in 1958 he couldn’t have had any idea how much impact he would have on future players of color.
The newest member of the Houston Aeros, forward Robbie Earl, is appreciative of the doors O’Ree opened.
‘Willie O’Ree and what he does is huge,’ Earl said. ‘I think more minority players are getting more serious about the game. They now have faces in the game to look up to, and that is good to see.’
Earl, who was born in Chicago and raised in California, said his grandfather, a native of Quebec City, got him interested in hockey. Earl refined his skills at a young age by joining the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
‘They do their work scouting players, and the development side is pretty intense,’ Earl said. ‘It is definitely a great program and it was an upside to my career.’
After completing the developmental program, Earl enjoyed a successful collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin, helping the Badgers win the 2006 NCAA Championship. In 2004, he was drafted by the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and registered his first career point in his professional debut against the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 2, 2008.
Earl has primarily played with Toronto’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Marlies, but became an Aero at the trade deadline. He said he is pumped to have a chance to play for a successful AHL franchise.
‘I’m excited for the change (to a) different organization, and I’m very excited to be here,’ Earl said. ‘The weather is unbelievable, totally different than Toronto.’
The Aeros are making a late-season push to solidify a higher spot in the upcoming Calder Cup playoffs. While every player wants to make it to the NHL and stay there, Earl is taking his journey one day at a time.
‘I think I’m going to do what I can do down here and not really focus on when I’m going to get called up,’ Earl said. ‘Just stick to your day-to-day, work hard, and that is pretty much all you can do for yourself.’