Columbus, Ga. (WRBL) – Black athletes are prominent in the sports landscape. One place that black players are still more of a rarity is in the hockey rink. On January 18th, 1958 Willie O’Ree became the first black player to play in the National Hockey League. Today, the NHL still has less than 10 percent of players that are minorities.

Here in the Fountain City, Thomas Aldworth has continued to chase his hockey dreams was traded to the Columbus River Dragons this season. As a half-black and half-white player, he knows he’s a rare face in this sport. Ever since he saw his first Dallas Stars practice as a kid he was hooked on hockey.

“I moved to where the Stars practiced at. I ended up moving across the street one day to watch them practice. It was a lot of fun. I loved the way it looked. I loved the equipment. I loved the skating and all the stuff like that,” said Aldworth.

Aldworth also said that when people walked up to him they assumed he was a fan of other sports. His love for hockey never waivered, and his dedication and hard work earned the respect and praise from his team.

“I used to get that a lot. Why aren’t you a basketball guy? This and that, which I like those sports, but for me hockey was that fastest sport and it was something that intrigued me so I say go for whatever you want to go for,” said Aldworth.

“There’s only one other guy that’s been faster or as fast and that’s Orrin Hergott. You Thomas is just a game changer out there just his speed and his skill. It’s amazing to watch. You know he makes everyone around him better,” said River Dragons head coach Jerome Bechard.

Even for black hockey fans, admitting they love hockey could turn some heads. WRBL Sports Director Jack Patterson loves watching hockey and says seeing players represent him on the ice is priceless.

“It hits different. When I see Thomas out there, and you see guys like that wearing the teal and red of the River Dragons it hits different,” said Patterson.

Aldworth will continue to skate and chase his hockey dreams. He also wants to be a light for younger kids that may look like him and let them know that hockey is for everyone.

“It’s really nice to be kind of like someone that can show younger kids, you know, it doesn’t matter how you look or where you come from or whatever. I’m from the South and I’m half black. So I feel like I’m someone you can look up to and kind of just see that if I can do it than you can do it too,” said Aldworth.

For more information about the Columbus River Dragons click here