Auston Matthews Might Be the NHL’s Great Brown Hope

Let me know if this ever happens to you, a reader who is probably of Latino ancestry:

You’re sitting on your couch, you turn on the TV, you flip on a sport and a little radar detector goes off in you searching for the person who shares your heritage.

In soccer and baseball, this could be as specific as the guy from your ancestors’ hometown. In basketball and football, it could be as broad as the “Hispanic guy.”

For the rest of the season, that person is ours.

That brings us to Wednesday night.

From October to April, I can often be found staring at the TV watching the greatest spectator sport in the world: professional hockey.

And the radar starts working…

“John Tavares?”

“No. Portuguese Canadian.” “

Kyle Okposo? “Nope. Nigerian.”

I rarely find anyone.

So when all of a sudden, my game was interrupted with news that Auston Matthews scored four goals in his debut NHL game, a rookie record, I wasn’t sure why I had that Hispanic guy detector going off about a Toronto Maple Leafs player.

They cameras kept panning to his mother celebrating.

“Hold on a second. Is she Latina?”

I jump on the internet and Google Auston Matthews, and it turns out that he’s from Arizona, and yes, he is half Mexican.

Dig deeper and we find out that he can “speak some Spanish”.

I was happier than a little kid who found out that Santa Claus was real… and Puerto Rican.

It’s a great time to be Latino. Our portion of the electorate is growing. We have politicians in federal, state and local governments, on both sides of the aisle. Not to mention our declassified plan to put taco trucks on every corner.

But there’s also the backlash.

You know the words, and you know the people who spoke them, so there is no need to name them in a lighthearted sports piece. But I’m sure we can all agree that it’s great having someone in the news who is shattering these nonsensical stereotypes, even if you have to dig a little deeper to discover that Matthews is Latino.

Which brought me back to the day I brought my father to a New York Islanders game in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago.

As we settled into our Barclays Center nosebleeds and looked at the ice, he asked me the inevitable question, “Are any of these guys Hispanic?”

Guess who I’m bringing with me the next time the Maple Leafs are in town.


Eric Cortes is a teacher and a writer. He tweets from @PoliteEric.