Finding satisfaction: Jaden Lindo comes out on top

Gaels forward using platform to discuss minority representation in hockey

Jaden Lindo.
Jaden Lindo.
Photo: 
While his resume shouts success, Jaden Lindo’s hockey career has been anything but linear.
 
The second-year’s played on two OHL teams, been drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and was teammates with Connor McDavid, who’s currently argued to be the best hockey player in the world. It’s led him to playing a critical role on a Queen’s men’s hockey team fresh off their OUA championship in 38 years.
 
And yet, satisfaction doesn’t come easy for Lindo.
 
“I don’t want to say I accomplished my goals,” he said. “[But] it’s been a great run.”
 
Lindo’s start in hockey came at age five in his hometown of Brampton, ON. His parents, who both moved from Jamaica to Canada in their teens before meeting each other, got him a pair of skates and an instructor.
 
“My dad said, ‘If you want to play hockey, you gotta learn how to skate. Since I can’t skate, you gotta find someone that knows how to,’” Lindo told The Journal. 
 
The first in his family to play the sport, he earned the nickname “The Train” from his ability to fly down the ice—and his inability to stop. At age 12, he quit soccer—the only sport he was playing outside of hockey at the time—to pursue hockey full-time.
 
By 15, Lindo was playing on the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team with McDavid and current NHLers Sam Bennett and Josh Ho-Sang, and was subsequently drafted to the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack. After scoring 22 points in 63 games in his first season, Lindo went into his 2014 NHL Draft season hoping to crack a goal that could change his life.
 
“My agent had told me that leading into the year, I was projected to be a second-round pick,” Lindo recalled. 
 
 
Logging 18 points through 38 games, Lindo was on track to meet his agent’s estimates. But just after Christmas, he broke out with an illness that lasted three weeks. Just as he recovered, a slight knee injury took him out for another two weeks. 
 
After two games back on the ice, he tore his ACL, officially ending his season.
 
“It was like, boom, boom, boom.”
 
Instantly, Lindo was forced to shift his expectations—he almost had to abandon his dreams altogether. His agent told him to watch the draft from home in case he wasn’t selected.
 
“I always dreamed of going to the draft and hearing your name called,” he said. “I was pretty upset.”
 
Watching the draft from home with his friends and family in June of 2014, each passing round marked a spot lost. But in the sixth round—going 173rd overall—the Pittsburgh Penguins read out his name. Despite signing a contract with the Penguins, Lindo returned to Owen Sound for his third season with the team.
 
But things weren’t the same.
 
“I was almost scared out there,” he recalled. “My confidence was real low.”
 
His performance reflected it: in 49 games, he potted just seven goals and two assists. Lindo described it as “the worst year” of his career. Aiming to bounce back, he put in the most intensive offseason of his career to try and return to peak shape.
 
The following seasons saw improved results; in 2015-16, he landed 30 points in 67 games before being traded to the Sarnia Sting. With the Sting, he netted a career-high 21 goals. Despite Pittsburgh cutting ties with him, he continued his search for a pro contract to no avail. In April of 2017, he started taking tours of universities. 
 
He chose Queen’s, a team that was recently returning from the national championships, because it “always stuck out to [him]."
 
By this time, Lindo had gained attention for featuring in film director Damon Kwame Mason’s movie Soul on Ice: Past, Present and Future. The movie tells the histories—both long-ago and recent—of black hockey players in the United States and Canada. Its aim was to document the unknown contributions of black athletes in the sport, which has long been regarded as homogenous.
 
Lindo, one of the film’s featured athletes, was followed by Kwame Mason through his NHL draft year documenting nearly every second—from the moment he tore his ACL to getting drafted by Pittsburgh. Examining current and past experiences as a black hockey player, Lindo said the movie recognizes the past and present of minorities in hockey.
 
“It was acknowledging what minorities have done for the game of hockey,” Lindo said. “I think in the past couple years [hockey has] done a better job of acknowledging that history, but before, it was kept under the radar. It was unfortunate that [black hockey players] had started these movements but no one was getting the recognition they deserve.”  
 
Since he strapped on his first pair of skates, Lindo’s often been the lone black player on his teams. At Queen’s, the experience is no different—but it’s something he understands and accepts.
 
“I think I was always conscious of it,” he said of being the only Black player on the men’s hockey team. “I guess, internally, it affects your confidence when you don’t see people doing what you want to do.”
 
Lindo alluded to a recent incident in Quebec where a Black hockey player left a game because he and his family were being taunted with racist remarks from the stands. The fans were allowed to stay at the game, and only left midway on their own volition.
 
“Seeing something like that happen […] if there’s no punishment, you’re allowing it to happen,” Lindo said. “It’s unfortunate that things like that still happen. People are going to say what they want or say it behind closed doors. It’s still racism.”
 
“In the back of your mind you’re wondering if anything’s going to happen to you.”
 
Over his career, Lindo’s gained an understanding of what it means to be a Black athlete in hockey—and knows exactly how to handle it.
 
“On one side you have to realize that there aren’t many people who look like you playing the game […] but on the other side, you can’t let that distract you from accomplishing your dreams. If you let that mindset sink in or doubting yourself,” he said.
 
“Saying ‘you can’t do this because you’re Black,’ [is] really going to wear you down mentally.”
 
This Saturday, Lindo will be a speaker at the Roundtable on Racism in Hockey, which will be hosted at Queen’s. He’ll be joined by numerous names from the hockey community, including ex-NHLer Tony McKegney, who played 13 years in the league.
 
It marks one of the many times Lindo’s made a name for himself in his career—but now, he’s using his voice.
 
“I feel like the older I get, the more I need to give back to the game of hockey,” he said. “Giving back to the community, the game of hockey, having an impact on someone’s life is a very important thing in life.”
 
Coming off the Gaels’ Queen’s Cup victory, Lindo is finding satisfaction comes easier. Going up against adversity only select athletes face—both within the sport and out—he’s reflecting more softly on his journey.
 
“It’s kind of cliché, but you get everything you deserve, and everything happens for a reason,” he said. “There would be years ago where I’d be questioning ‘why am I doing this?’ and you’ve been seeing constant let-downs.”
 
“This is why you make all those sacrifices.”

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