Promising Sheffield Steeler Curtis Warburton happy to be a role model
That’s almost all its purpose.
Line-up of legends as former Sheffield Steelers man married in Canada
But he’s also happy to accept the responsibility of becoming a role model for the next generation of black ice hockey players, should that position of influence come his way.
He will train and play for the Steelers, who will get early notice of him as a potential starting goaltender, but will also get more ice time and develop faster in Hull.
The Sheffield UTC Technical College alumnus first caught the eye in the 2020-21 Elite Series tournament when he was chosen as ‘Top Rookie’.
He played seven times for the Steelers club he grew up watching and was swept into the hearts of Sheffield Arena fans.
There aren’t many people of color in sport around the world, especially at the highest national level here.
The Steelers roster over the past 30 years has had very few.
But Warburton, like Swinton-born British goalkeeper Ben Bowns, is determined to rise through the ranks and if he sets an example for other black boys and girls, he will be delighted.
He has appeared in a documentary about black hockey players as well as videos promoting diversity in the sport.
“When I started playing, there were no black hockey players (in junior teams.)
“Around the next few years, we started seeing one in a team or something.
“As far as being admired, I’m really like any other hockey player, but obviously there can be people who see me and think, ‘Maybe I could do that too.
“We want to get to the point where kids watch any sport and think ‘I can do that’ instead of ‘I can’t do that’ because there’s nobody like me.”
Why isn’t ice hockey as diverse as some other sports?
Maybe it’s because of the opportunity, said the player, whose maternal heritage can be traced back to the Caribbean country of Grenada.
“I came in because of my mother, who has watched the Steelers for a long time and brought me in.
“So for me it was more about parental influence, although it’s not a cheap sport to play.
“Anything people or I can do to help, the better (the lack of black participants) shouldn’t be a thing,” he said.
The England U20 goalkeeper, whose family run the Chantry Brewery in Parkgate, said he faced racism as a junior.
“You just have to ignore it, you can’t get caught, it has to go in one ear and out the other.
“Hopefully that’s about to go away. There was no racism at school (Oakwood High and UTC) where I was with other ethnic groups.”
The 6ft2in goalkeeper said he would be happy if he inspired kids from all walks of life to embrace the sport.
Curtis is aware, however, that the more successful he is on the ice, the more likely he is to have a positive impact on the lives of young people.
And that hunger for success sees him nearly every day in the gym, training with longtime Steeler athletes like Robert Dowd and Jonathan Phillips.
He wants to be as prepared as possible for the new season, with Sheffield and Hull.
“The two-way arrangement really is the best of both worlds,” he said.
“As I start my career, it is important for me to have as many minutes on the ice as possible. The contract allows me to train with Sheffield and be with them, and they will use me when they have need me.”
A Steelers spokesperson said: “Curtis is a tremendous prospect.
“And he is a key part of our club, our culture and our future.
“If he can help increase diversity in our sport, that would be a superb achievement and we would wholeheartedly endorse him.”
The Steelers fixtures for the festive period are as follows: Dec. 26 vs. Nottingham (a.m.) Dec. 26 vs. Nottingham (a.) Dec. 31 vs. Manchester (a.m.) Jan. 1 vs. Manchester (a.)