Amor Prohibido: A Forbidden Love Affair with Hockey

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Like any self-respecting Tejana, I grew up loving Selena. Her songs play in the background of most of my favorite memories, and it feels appropriate to say that they even describe my relationship with hockey. I got into hockey relatively late in the game, so to speak. I had always been aware of the sport peripherally, but as I generally didn’t give sports any more effort than it took to passionately love the San Antonio Spurs (and despise every other basketball team), I was fine to live in my hockey-free world.

That all changed in college when I won free tickets to see my local AHL team the same week that I was linked to a video of PK Subban changing a diaper. I think we lost that game, but I was hooked and soon I was learning everything I could about the sport.

Selena’s classic song "Amor Prohibido" is about a seemingly forbidden love where everyone can’t wait to voice their opinions about how wrong the couple is for each other- much like me and my newly beloved hockey. I was spoiled with my first game, you see. San Antonio is a wonderfully diverse city, and that diversity spread even to the crowds of the whitest professional sport in America. I soon realized that my place in hockey fandom would be questioned because of all of my defining characteristics: my gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, location, and yes, my ethnicity.

For those of you not keeping count, there’s about 4 Latino players currently playing in the NHL: Auston Matthews, Max Pacioretty, Matt Nieto, and Al Montoya. All of these men are on different teams, in different divisions, and they play at different levels. Needless to say there isn’t a "Face of Latino Hockey Players," mostly because there just aren’t enough of them. I’m glad to see teams like the Sharks taking steps to grow their Latinx fanbase, but let me tell you it’s hard out here being a fan of something that not only doesn’t include you, but rarely even acknowledges that you exist.

Besides the Sharks, several other teams could be making efforts to reach out to an untapped Latinx market. Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, hell, even the New York teams have millions of fans that aren’t being reached because of some old, racist idea of what a hockey fan should look like. I’ll say that the crowds at my local AHL team were the most diverse I’ve ever seen at a hockey game. The one thing media stereotypes get right is that Latinx people are passionate about their sports. Give us someone to cheer for, someone who wants us cheering for them, and we’ll be loyal to the end.

Every time I tell friends and family that I like hockey, I’m always asked "Why? Isn’t that a sport for rich white people?" And I never really know how to reply because, well, it it is. Unlike our portrayals in most media, Latinx people aren’t dumb. We know when something isn’t meant for people like us. Yes, it’s a special kind of hell to love something that doesn’t love you back, but I’m willing to continue my Amor Prohibido with hockey as long as there are being strides being taken to make this sport more accessible to everyone in the future.

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