For decades, when you think of hockey, you don’t often think of visible minorities. But that’s slowly changing. From Willie O’Ree to Grant Fuhr to P.K. Subban, it’s been proven that talent knows no race, religion, or colour — and Owen Sound Attack forward Jaden Lindo hopes to be a role model for the next generation of hockey players.
“Growing up as a coloured hockey player — that’s not something that happens too often,” Lindo said. “But to be able to be a role model for those up and coming, that would be great. I’m happy to play that role.
“Especially back in my hometown, there are kids who may have seen me play when I was younger and now see where I am now. I try to give them a few pointers. You see kids all around the arenas nowadays, so you want to help them out.”
Lindo explained that while he hasn’t been subject to racism in arenas or with teammates, it’s something he doesn’t focus on day to day.
“I’d say it’s always in my mind that I’m a bit different than others,” he said. “But there’s nothing wrong with that.
“I try not to focus on it at all, because I’m just another hockey player like everyone else.”
Before he can be a role model on the game’s greatest stage, Lindo is taking the opportunity to learn from his own idols.
“I admired Jarome Iginla, he was my favourite player growing up. And recently I’ve been watching Wayne Simmonds and Joel Ward playing in the NHL,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a couple of other players. I actually met Wayne Simmonds over the summer. I spoke to Kevin Weekes a couple of times. Chris and Anthony Stewart — they’re all great role models for me.”
Initially, Lindo wanted to pattern his game after Iginla, but recently he’s found inspiration closer to home.
“[Iginla]’s a bit more of a sniper/goal-scorer, but I try to make my physical game after his.” he explained. “Lately I’ve admired Wayne Simmonds — especially since he played in Owen Sound too.”
Also in the back of his head is the NHL Draft. In Central Scouting’s most recent rankings, the 6’, 200-pound Lindo found himself listed at 96. He said he’s trying not to think about the presence of scouts in the crowd and has turned to teammate and Detroit Red Wings’ 2013 second-round selection Zach Nastasiuk for advice.
“It’s always in the back of your head, but you just have to stay focused,” he explained. “Zack just went through it last year. He pretty much just said it’s not in your hands. Just leave it all on the ice and you’re going to be OK.”
And while he’s pleased to be ranked 96th, he is committed to forcing his way up the draft boards come June.
“I was at school actually and I saw [the Central Scouting rankings] over Twitter. I was pretty happy actually that I was ranked there,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard and hopefully get ranked higher in that lineup.
“It all comes down to what you put out, that’s what you get, right? If I want to get higher in the lineup, then I have to perform better. It’s all up to me and I have my part to play in this, too.”
Last year, Lindo finished his rookie campaign scoring five goals and 22 points in 63 games. So far this year, he’s approaching double-digits in both goals and assists, with nine each in 41 games. He finished with 55 penalty minutes last year and is already up to 37 this season, but Lindo said he wants to make that physical aspect of his game a little more prominent going forward.
“I need to work on being consistent and playing my game, bringing my physical side of the game night in and night out. I have to make more chances for myself and control the puck better,” he said. “I see myself as a power forward. I think I have a physical part of the game that I need to bring out more often.
“I need to create battles in front of the net, be physical down low, and win battles for my teammates.”
Owen Sound is currently sitting in seventh place in the OHL’s Western Conference, a comfortable eight points up on eighth-place Plymouth. And as the team heads into the home stretch of the OHL season, Lindo said he’s hoping to end strong.
“I just want to have a good finish,” he said. “It’s been a long season. I just want to give it all for the last 20 or so games.”
Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard