Race and the Making of Atlanta Hockey
Having skyrocketed from six to fourteen teams between 1966 and 1970, leaders of the National Hockey League had planned to wait a few more years before expanding any further. But as its rivalry with the World Hockey Association intensified, competition for markets rose, and the race for continued expansion became too urgent to ignore. Not to be outdone, the NHL introduced two new teams in 1971: one in Long Island, New York, and one in Atlanta, Georgia.
For its own part, Atlanta had been watching as White residents left the city for the suburbs over the course of the 1960s. As the turn of the decade approached, city leadership was searching for ways to mitigate White flight and bring residents of the surrounding suburbs back to the city center. So when a stereotypically White sport came to the Deep South in 1971 in the form of the Atlanta Flames, ownership saw a new opportunity to appeal to White audiences. But the challenge would be selling a game that was foreign to most of Atlanta’s longtime sports fans.
Filling a significant gap in scholarly literature concerning race and hockey within US history, White Ice: Race and the Making of Atlanta Hockey is a response to two simple questions: How did a cold-climate sport like hockey end up in a majority Black city in the Deep South? And why did it come when it did? Over seven chronological chapters, Thomas Aiello unpacks the history, culture, and context surrounding these questions, teasing out what the story of the Atlanta Flames can teach us about the NHL, Atlanta, race, and the business of professional sports expansion.
THOMAS AIELLO is a professor of history at Valdosta State University in Georgia. He is the author or editor of nineteen books, including Dixieball: Race and Professional Basketball in the Deep South, 1947–1979.