Jamie Storr: Seeing is believing
(From Positive Sports, Freelance Communications, 2003)
He was the Los Angeles Kings’ first round pick in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft (chosen seventh overall). Jamie Storr has played backup to some of the league’s best goalies and puckstopped for his hockey hero—Wayne Gretzky. His summer hockey school calls for celebrating pride in one’s heritage.
“I’m trying to defeat racism in sports and the general community. It’s impossible to do, but role models on professional teams can definitely have an affect on a community in a positive manner. It’s something I take very seriously.
“I’m half Japanese. It’s important for athletes, especially in high-end sports, to take a serious approach in their own community. The Japanese community I feel a real strong bond with because of my heritage. It gives me an opportunity to work with a lot of people who have no idea what hockey’s all. It broadens the horizon, not only on the diversity issue, but also by giving them positive feedback on the sport of hockey. It’s a part of NHL Diversity, but it’s a separate program run through the LA Kings and myself. This isn’t something that we have to do. I just have the privilege of going in and being the spokesperson. I don’t have a lot of time during the year to focus on anything but the game so any time I have, it’s already set up and ready to run, and I just step in and talk to a lot of people who I have a very special bond with.
“I never had that so that’s why it’s very important. I had the face, as does every other child growing up, of diversity throughout schools and the community. It’s something that I approached as a professional athlete, to be the role model I never had. I never had a Japanese-Canadian person to look up to other than my mother. I was ashamed, when I was a kid, that I was half Japanese. That’s probably one of the biggest letdowns I look back on. If I could change one thing it would be, not to look at what other people see you as…the color of your skin or your heritage. Instead, be proud to be unique and stand up for it. It’s something I’m trying to teach these kids. When other people look at you a little different, stand up for yourself. Be proud of who you are. Paul Kariya’s playing in the NHL. I’m playing in the NHL. Some of the best baseball players in the world are from Japan. Be proud of your heritage. Not because there are role models out there that are the same as you, but you could be one of those role models down the road. They can have something to look up to. They can say it’s cool to be half Japanese instead of running away from it. Even if it helps one child to look at being proud of who he is, it’s worthwhile for me to do it.
“As an adult, you’re able to overcome any prejudice—not letting it affect you in a negative manner, realizing, I can choose the people I hang out with, the people I talk to. I choose to choose people who are a positive influence on me. I know there are negative influences out there. The people you surround yourself with are the people you are most like. If you’re successful, a hard worker, and positive, you’re a positive influence, not only on yourself, your family, and your community, but mostly the people you hang around. If you’re a negative influence, negative person, you’re going to tend to hang out with that kind of crowd. There are a lot more actions you can take as an adult than there are as a child. I played with Nathan Lafayette, who was half African-American and half Irish. He said the hardest thing for him was, he wasn’t accepted by the white community because he wasn’t really white. He wasn’t accepted by the black community because he wasn’t really black. There wasn’t a community for him. I think it’s important for those people, especially as role models, to step up and be a positive influence. There are a lot of kids out there like them. Stepping out to talk about it or talk to the community that they feel positive about it…it has a big effect.
“I do this because I get enjoyment out of it, not because I have to. My mother passed away eight years ago and the only Japanese trace I feel is through her. Now that she’s passed away, I feel even stronger about reaching out to that community. Every time I’m able to talk to those people, it’s from the heart. It has a meaning.
“My brother is a teacher back home in Ontario. Sometimes he has good classes. Sometimes he has bad classes. It’s tough when you have kids that don’t want to listen or learn. I said, even if you can get one child in class and make a difference in his life, you don’t have to make a difference in 29 children’s lives. So when I do the diversity training, if one person picks it up, it’s worthwhile. It makes me feel even closer to my heritage. That’s important for me. Hockey’s just a game. We’ve got the luxury of making a lot of money. There are a lot more things out there that are important in life. To be a positive person, the community is a lot more important.
“People listen to sports athletes and people with a little bit of power behind them a lot more than they listen to the average person walking on the street. I think it’s, not only opportunity for an athlete, but it’s something you have to do for the influence on young children today. Those are the next great people in the world. My child will have a role model to look up to when he gets older.
“I had a little girl, the first time I ran the diversity clinic, who was half Japanese and half American. She came up to me and said, “Hey, Jamie, I’m just like you.” I asked what she meant by that. She said, “I’m Japanese. I’m just like you.” She felt important because of that. That’s what it’s all about. It’s just realizing it’s not the color of their skin. It’s not their heritage or what they’re going to become in the future. It’s what’s inside of them. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, Asian—any type of race. They can succeed in life if they sacrifice and work hard. You realize if children can put those excuses aside, instead of saying, “Well, I didn’t get a fair chance because I’m Asian,” then they realize it’s up to them. So then they can look themselves in the mirror and be proud of who they are and work towards goals they feel are achievable and cut the crap aside. Don’t feel sorry because they were born into this world under their heritage. We’re trying to make them realize, when they’re born into this world, they’re given an opportunity to do something in life and if they take a positive aspect to it, work hard and be determined, they will have the same opportunities of any child of any heritage. You can see that through the NHL. Jarome Iginla is one of the best players in the league right now. He’s one of the few African Canadian players in the league.”
What would he be doing if sports wasn’t apart of his life? “I’m a very determined person and a very hard working person. I have no idea what I’d be doing but I would like to be doing something that would be making a difference. I like positions of high pressure. I like being in control. I’d rather own a small company, make a small salary, and be in charge of everything than be at the bottom of the food chain of a big company and have everyone tell me what to do. I feel you make more of a difference when you’re in control. That’s basically what I’m going to look into doing after hockey—to have something that I choose to do will be my own and I’ll be able to run it.”