The African Hockey Association: Perspective from Coach Emma

By Emma Weller

For the past sixteen years of my life, I have been privileged enough to be emersed in the world of hockey without facing discrimination or injustices.

Sadly, many children do not have that same opportunity.

Throughout my life, on and off the ice, I have been an advocate for equity and inclusion in sports and believe that no matter one’s gender, race, religion, or sexuality, they deserve equal opportunities to play the game. That being said, I am honoured and proud to now be the Head Coach of the African Hockey Association Program.

In my final years of the sport, I played on the Carleton Ravens Women’s Varsity Hockey Team before sustaining a major concussion in my second year. I am now a third-year student pursuing journalism with a minor in community engagement for my degree.

It was October 2021. I was assigned a news story from my professor and I reached out to the African Canadian Association of Ottawa (ACAO) in hopes of an interview to support the story. From there, I was put into contact with Godlove Ngwafusi, the co-founder of the African Hockey Association, alongside Steve Leon.

One day after my practice, I was sitting in my dressing room at the Carleton Ice House awaiting Ngwafusi on a zoom call.

While interviewing Ngwafusi, he questioned where I was located during the interview, and we then got on the discussion of hockey – the next day, I got a call from Leon asking me to volunteer with the new program.

I was beyond excited to be involved in such an amazing program.

The goal of ACAO’s new program was to help break down barriers faced by many children and families in sports such as racial discrimination and socio-economic challenges.

It goes without saying that hockey is one of the most expensive sports to participate in, and most children that play are predominantly white.

That said, to eliminate costs for families, the weekly ice slots are donated by Hockey Eastern Ontario (HEO) and David Loehr, President of the Ottawa Centre Minor Hockey Association. In addition, all of the players’ equipment is donated by  Next Shift Canada – a Canadian non-profit aiming to “make hockey accessible to every child possible.”

After the call from Leon, I began to attend practice sessions at the Jim Durrell Arena in the Herongate community every Sunday morning. As members of the coaching staff, we taught the players the fundamentals of the sport while engaging in games throughout the session.

Amarkai Laryea, Ngwafusi, and I ignited the program for the second season in a row in November 2022 after a fantastic season of smiles and development from over 30 kids.

As many coaches were unable to return for this season, I decided to take on a larger role within the group as the head coach. That said, I am very lucky to coach alongside Coach Laryea and Coach Abbas Kwofie this season!

We currently have 37 kids signed up this year between the ages of 4-15 with a range of skill levels. Due to the various levels, we coaches divide the ice into sections and teach kids appropriately based on their experience and level of skill/understanding.

Most recently, our team has collaborated with Black History Ottawa (BHO) and the Ottawa Senators for a development session, commemorative game, and the Senators Black History Month Awareness Game.

Jean-Marie Guerrier, Vice-President of BHO, arranged for our group to practice with several Ottawa Senators Alumni on Feb. 7, followed by the opportunity to watch a commemorative game in honour of Black History Month and The Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes established in 1895.

The kids were ecstatic on the ice with the alumni players – they loved it!

On Feb. 13, the team was also invited to watch the Ottawa Senators match up against the Calgary Flames in the Black History Month Awareness Game. Two of our players, Christabel Epie Bih and Jayden Mforteh, took part in the ceremonial puck drop prior to the game commencing.

Being a part of this program has truly opened my eyes to the true meaning of sports.

To come to the rink on Sundays and watch these kids skate, fall, and get back up 10 times over and still see their faces beaming with joy is the highlight of my week. Their faces light up as soon as they hit that ice – and that is what this sport is truly all about.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to have fun and learn in a safe atmosphere, and that is exactly why this program exists.


Emma Weller

My name is Emma Weller and I am a third-year student at Carleton University pursuing a degree in journalism with a minor in community engagement. During my time at Carleton, I played hockey on the Varsity Women’s Team for two seasons and am the current President of Global Minds Carleton — a social justice club aimed to support people and communities on local, national, and international levels. I am also the current head coach of the African Hockey Association Team and have been involved since it was established in 2021. Additionally, I am the founder of Emma’s Winter Buncles Charity which aims to support homeless communities across Ontario!