How I Got Here

Scoring a goal for diversity

Jaden Lindo on ice in an indoor hockey rink wearing skates, hockey gloves, and holding a hockey stick.

Photo by Nate Smallwood

Former Pittsburgh Penguins sixth-round draft pick Jaden Lindo, Artsci’21, GDB’21, was drafted by the National Hockey League team in 2014. He was finally “called up” by the team in 2021, although not in the way he was initially expecting.

The former Gaels hockey star, who helped Queen’s win an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) hockey championship in 2019, is now the manager of community hockey programs for the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

His job is to help bring diversity to hockey in the Pittsburgh area and his role includes leading the Willie O’Ree Academy, which offers resources and off-season training to Black youth hockey players.

Mr. Lindo never achieved his dream of taking a shift on the ice as an NHL player. But now he can make a difference in the sport he loves by helping promote and train the next generation of diverse players.

“I had two goals that I wanted in hockey – to make the NHL and to leave a positive impact on the game,” says Mr. Lindo. “So, I didn’t make the NHL in the capacity that I originally thought. But you know that second dream? Pittsburgh gave me this opportunity and platform to be able to make that change in the game and change kids’ lives, too.”

Mr. Lindo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., started playing hockey as a kid and was talented enough to be recruited by the Toronto Marlboros minor hockey club, playing alongside future NHLers Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett. This helped him make the jump to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), where he played several seasons with Owen Sound and Sarnia.

Unfortunately, in his NHL draft year, he tore his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, which helps stabilize the knee joint. He still managed to be picked 173rd overall.

“It was a turning point in my career,” says Mr. Lindo. “I felt the following year after my ACL surgery was the worst year that I had.”

Soon he was at a crossroads. He was cut by the Penguins two years after he was drafted, and his OHL career was over. Mr. Lindo could have played in a minor pro league and tried to work his way to the NHL. Instead, he felt the best option was to take the free tuition offered through the OHL’s scholarship program and enrol at Queen’s, giving him the chance to extend his playing days with the Gaels and earn a degree at a university with a great academic reputation.

“I had an absolutely fantastic time at Queen’s. I loved my experience,” says Mr. Lindo, who juggled academics and training with volunteer duties such as raising money to support the Hockey Diversity Alliance’s initiatives to eradicate racism from hockey.

The highlight at Queen’s – and of his entire hockey career – was scoring the winning goal in the OUA championship game in 2019 in front of a full house of screaming Queen’s fans at Memorial Arena.

While studying for his Graduate Diploma in Business at the Smith School of Business, he received a text message out of the blue from Penguins Foundation executive director Jim Britt. It turned out someone had recommended Mr. Lindo for the community manager position.

The role is a perfect fit because diversity and inclusion are issues Mr. Lindo is passionate about. At age six, he faced his first instance of racism while playing hockey when he was harassed during a game. Now, he has a chance to help prevent that happening to other young hockey players of colour.

“I am happy I have a job that helps remove some of the barriers I went through and allows me to give back to the community that has given me so much,” Mr. Lindo says.

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