William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in sports. Today, he profiles Desmond Garrett, a 7-year-old boy from suburban Indianapolis whose hockey exploits and fashion sense have made him a social media sensation.
Desmond Garrett was thrilled to have a chic coat for Christmas to help him keep up with some of the NHL’s well-dressed men.
“He wanted to make sure everyone could see his suit, so he bought a nice coat,” Desmond’s dad Adam Garrett said with a laugh. “So between fashion and hockey, I have no money.”
Many people watch and marvel at 7-year-old Garrett from suburban Indianapolis, Indiana, whose hockey skills, exploits and game-day sartorial splendor made him a hit on the social networks.
Desmond is in the NHL commercial “The Next Golden Era is Now” currently airing. He was one of 15 selected for the NHL Fan Skills Class of 2021 for his hockey prowess.
At 6, he made The Athletic’s NHL-style power ranking in November 2021, earning slashes for insisting on arriving at the rink in a suit and tie.
“I asked him why he was doing this, and he was like, ‘You never know who’s looking at you,'” Adam Garrett said.
Along with helping keep his son looking as good as he plays, Adam Garrett makes sure Desmond is steeped in black hockey history. He met several black players, coaches, and staff while attending ECHL games in Indianapolis and on road trips to see other professional or junior leagues.
Scroll through Demond’s (managed by dad) Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts and you’ll see pictures of him with Jason Payne and Joel MartinECHL’s Cincinnati and Kalamazoo coaches; Rod Braceful, Chicago Blackhawks scout; Rodwin Dionicio, a defenseman for Niagara of the Ontario Hockey League and the Swiss team at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship; and Howard SmithPittsburgh ICE co-founder and 2020-21 Willie O’Ree Community Hero finalist.
“My goal is to introduce him to as many people as possible who look like him in the game,” said senior Garrett, “and help him develop allies and friendships and people he can see himself in, whether it’s in the future, it’s a coach or a role model or a player.
“I think it’s important for him to see himself because, you know, it’s not a very diverse sport right now, but we’re trying to change that.”
Desmond said he wanted to be a professional hockey player one day “because it’s fun and you get paid.”
He’s been hooked on hockey ever since his parents bought him a pair of inline skates to ride in their basement. They put him on blades when he was about 2 and took him to Indy Fuel ECHL home games, where he could skate with the players after Sunday meets.
“I tell people he had the opposite reaction of most kids,” his father said. “After two hours he started crying because they took him off the ice, not because he was falling or anything.”
These days, Desmond plays for Indy Jr. Fuel in the winter and a Chicago-based roller hockey team in the summer. When he’s not at the rink, he skates on synthetic ice in the family garage, trains in the basement or takes hockey trips.
Desmond wanted to do a stick and puck session with Smith, who he and his dad follow on social media. So they jumped in the family car after Desmond took part in a track competition on Memorial Day weekend, drove nearly 360 miles and six hours to join Smith for a 90-minute stick time at an ice rink. from the suburbs of Pittsburgh.
Smith said he was blown away by Desmond’s gesture and ability.
“It’s not just a little player learning to play or to skate,” he said. “I was doing exercises there with him and they were a bit complex. But the way he mastered them, it was like, ‘Wow.’
“I saw other kids that were on the ice, bigger kids, and I called them over and said, ‘OK, let’s try this. Let’s try that.’ And even some of those kids were like, ‘Who is he?’ And then when I told them who he was, they were like, ‘Wow.
Subsequently, Desmond and his father returned to Indiana, but made a pit stop in Columbus, Ohio, so Desmond could play at a deck hockey facility there, his father said.
“He’s an inspiration because he’s the next generation of kids getting involved in hockey, kids of color,” Smith said. “He has a positive impact on a lot of kids who look like Desmond and can say, ‘Hey, if Desmond can do it, I can do it too.'”
Pictures: courtesy of Adam Garrett