Stuff of Dreams

Dean Barnes’s Black NHL hockey card collection and podcast

If you grew up playing or watching hockey, you might have quite a collection of hockey cards. Remember the thrill of opening one of the packs and “scoring” a top rookie card or a game-worn jersey card of your favourite NHL player?

Dean Barnes, now in his 50s, has been a collector since grade school. Not only that, Dean—who’s a superintendent of education​ for the Halton District School Board—has amassed over 100 trading cards of Black and biracial players who appeared in at least one NHL game. His collection includes Wille O’Ree, the league’s first Black player in 1958, plus rookie cards of Hall of Famers Jarome Iginla and Grant Fuhr.

This educator’s goal is to raise awareness and celebrate the achievements of underrepresented and minority players in the NHL. To that end, Dean has a podcast called My Hockey Hero. The series features interviews with players in his collection, including Ottawa’s Mark Fraser, a former defenseman who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Edmonton Oilers.

The personal stories—of hardship and triumph—shared by these hockey heroes are moving and inspiring, especially as, in real time, the NHL season nears the end, with just 16 teams headed to the playoffs.

As Dean notes in one of his podcast episodes, a lot of these NHL players were also passionate collectors of hockey cards when they were young. They had their own hockey dreams and heroes, so to be actually featured on one of those covetable cards was the stuff of NHL dreams.

“It was a big moment for them to have their own hockey card and share with their families when they got their card,” he points out, adding most of them can remember exactly where they were when the photo for that card was taken.
To see the Black hockey card collection, visit You’ll find My Hockey Hero wherever you get your podcasts.