Evanston Hockey director breaks the sport’s color line: ‘I hope my presence helps build diversity’

In 1985, five-year-old Del Morris took a Chandler sports field trip to the ice rink at the Robert Crown Community Center and discovered an interesting activity called “ice skating.”

He started his hockey career the following year. Since then, Morris has gone on to break down racial barriers in the sport as a hockey coach and director, as well as inspiring a new generation of young black players in Evanston.

The Evanston native played for his first team in the Wildkits youth hockey program, where he participated for years. In one season, Morris even played as a goalie for the Wildkits youth travel team and a defender for the home league team simultaneously, just to get more playing time.

He later played one season each for the Park Ridge Express and Notre Dame High School Ice Dons hockey clubs, but he returned to the Wildkits program to play goalie for the high school club’s team. The Evanston Township High School graduate says he once played with a sore throat and a 99-degree fever for the Wildkits.

Del Morris played goalie for the Evanston High School club team in the late 1990s. Credit: Evanston Hockey

Morris was named the Most Valuable Player on the High School Team twice. He was also one of the few black players in the Wildkits hockey organization at the time.

“I loved every second of it,” Morris said of his early years of play. “There were hard times, being one of three African Americans on my team, but many years it was just me. And we were the only ones in our league, so playing against other teams made it difficult when racial slurs were said.

“I didn’t have anyone in my organization that looked like me other than the players. No one on the board or coaching staff looked like me.”

Morris graduated from ETHS in 1999 and went on to play as a goalie with the junior hockey team New Mexico Ice Breakers for three seasons before ending his competitive career.

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