Yvan Mongo Is Leading By Example

Yvan Mongo with the Ottawa Gee Gees – Photo by Greg Mason

Yvan Mongo’s leadership has never been in question.

An assistant captain with two different QMJHL teams in Junior, and now the captain of the University of Ottawa Gee Gees men’s hockey program.

Off the ice, Mongo has been leading the way for many through his anti-racism initiatives.

In particular, Mongo, who is a third year Ottawa student-athlete studying finance, started “Mongo’s Brave Buddies.”

“The “Mongo’s Brave Buddies” initiative came about after the murder of George Floyd,” Mongo explained.

“It was the spark that made it happen because shortly after his death my coach called me to check up on me. During that call, he let me know he would help if I ever wanted to do something for the community, so right then and there I had the idea of the Brave Buddies.”

“Essentially, I wanted to create an event for young visible minorities hockey players, boys and girls, in the Gatineau/Ottawa region. The purpose was to invite them to watch a game, have a conversation prior to it where I’d listen to them, tell them a bit of my story, and try to give them some advice on how to handle themselves or how to react when facing discrimination. Most importantly, I want to give them a message of hope and positivity and make them understand that their ethnicity or the colour of their skin should never make them feel like they can’t do great things in hockey or in life in general.”

Mongo was recently recognized for his off-ice leadership receiving the Ottawa Gee Gees Garnet and Grey Community Engagement Award. Mongo was also the University of Ottawa’s External Communication Officer for the Black Student-Athletic Advocacy Council.

Mongo’s leadership, and anti-racism efforts off ice did not go unnoticed by the school, nor did his performance as an offensive leader for the Gee Gees. His accolades and the respect he’d gained from teammates and the University resulted in Mongo being named team captain for 2020-2021.

“Being named Captain was a huge honour for me. It demonstrates the trust and appreciation that my coaches and teammates have for me so it’s something I’m really proud of,” said Mongo, who spent four seasons in the QMJHL with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and Drummondville Voltigeurs.

“I think it’s great that I’m a Black hockey player and the captain because I can be a source of inspiration for younger generations. Hockey is a predominantly white sport so if only one kid from the BIPOC community sees me and recognizes him or herself in me, and it gives them the drive to pursue their passion, then I will be happy.”

Mongo remembers being called the N-word on three occasions in his hockey career, and recognizes the micro-aggressions he faces, but is thankful that his experience wasn’t worse.

Still, he recognizes the devastating impacts of systemic racism, including in hockey.

For positive change to continue, Mongo believes there needs to be more grassroots initiatives such as his Brave Buddies, additional training, and more visible minorities hired into important positions.

“I think initiatives such as mine can help the game of hockey progress and become more inclusive,” Mongo stated.

“I believe there is cross-cultural training to be done and I think it can be done as soon as minor hockey. If it started in school it would be even better and have greater reach. Also, hiring more visible minorities in important positions would help though it is slowly starting to happen. At the end of the day I believe it all comes down to education because there is no reason or place for racism in hockey or society.”

With people like Yvan Mongo leading the way, real change for the game of hockey could soon be in sight.

By Ian Kennedy

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