Dirk Graham, Blackhawks Made Black History for the NHL
On January 4, 1988, the Chicago Blackhawks traded Curt Fraser to the Minnesota North Stars for veteran center Dirk Graham. In five seasons at Minnesota, Graham has become a respected player and leader on the ice.
The following year, after trading then-captain Denis Savard to Montreal, the Blackhawks named Graham their new captain, making him the first black captain in NHL history.
Graham will spend six seasons wearing the “C” in Chicago, one of the longest runs for a Blackhawks player before Jonathan Toews. He won the Selke Trophy for his performance during the 1990–91 season, one of three Blackhawks to win the award. Graham, Toews and Troy Murray are the only Blackhawks to have won the prestigious award given to the league’s best defensive forward.
He is also the author of one of the best individual playoff performances of all time for the franchise in Game 4 of the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals against the Penguins. Graham put a team accepting defeat on his back and scored a hat trick in what turned out to be the Blackhawks’ playoff game at the hands of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Co.
When Graham retired in 1995, he became an assistant coach for the Blackhawks on Craig Hartsburg’s staff. He only stayed there for a season before taking a break and then turning to scouting – where he still works today (he returned to Chicago a few times this year).
While scouting is where he works now, he wasn’t done with the training bug. And Chicago would eventually need a leader behind the bench. When the Blackhawks named him the 31st head coach in franchise history on June 29, 1998, he also became the first black head coach in NHL history.
Graham only lasted 59 games as head coach of the Blackhawks; he picked an awful time to try to lead the franchise. But his keen hockey sense brought him back into the world of scouting.
As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important that we recognize and celebrate the role Graham and the Blackhawks have played together in league history.