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Sabres support ‘Breaking Barriers’ to promote diversity in hockey

Artist Edreys Wajed shares how Val James, the first Black U.S. NHLer, inspired the Sabres' 'Breaking Barriers' logo, while Jack Eichel discusses how the organization is growing the game and promoting diversity.

On Nov. 1, 1981, Val James became the first Black player born in America to appear in an NHL game, as he suited up for the Buffalo Sabres. Learning about Val James inspired Buffalo artist Edreys Wajed to design a Buffalo Sabres “Breaking Barriers” T-shirt for Black History Month.

As Wajed explained to the Sabres website, the design also paid homage to the NBA’s Buffalo Braves, and references Breaking Barriers, a local organization.

The numbers “1981" and “26" are written within the Sabres logo as references to the year James made his debut and the number he wore in Buffalo. The colors and break within the charging Buffalo pay homage to the logo of the Braves, while the Sabres’ usual crossed swords are replaced by Akofena, a symbol for courage and valor originating in Ghana.

You can learn more in the video above, and also in this interview with Wajed.

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NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America this Sunday with an NHL quadruple header on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features which explore hockey’s impact and influence across the U.S. The day is a highlight of NBC Sports’ NHL coverage in March, which includes 30 games over 30 nights.

NBC Hockey Day in America schedule

Sabres at Islanders – NBC – 12 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Kenny Albert and Eddie Olczyk will be on the call for the game at Nassau Coliseum.

Lightning at Blackhawks – NBCSN – 2:30 p.m. ET (Watch live) – John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will be on the call for the game at United Center.

Devils at Bruins^ – NBCSN – 5 p.m. ET (Watch live) – Brendan Burke and Brian Boucher will be on the call for the game at TD Garden.

Rangers at Penguins^ – NBCSN – 7:30 p.m. ET (Watch live) – John Forslund and Pierre McGuire will be on the call for the game at PPG Paints Arena.

(^Blacked out in local markets: Pittsburgh, Boston, New York City)

For more Hockey Day in America stories, click here