With the world in a state of civil unrest, the Black Lives Matter movement has forced every person and institution to take a look at the systemic racism that exists across North America. The NHL is no different.
Hockey is a notoriously exclusive sport and one where minorities stand out in a way that often makes them a target for harassment. In an attempt to make hockey a more inclusive and open sport, seven of the league’s more vocal black players have come together to form the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
Evander Kane and Akim Aliu were named co-heads of the HDA, with Wayne Simmonds, Matt Dumba, Trevor Daley, Joel Ward, and former Colorado Avalanche Chris Stewart joining the executive committee.
For now, the group is independent from the NHL but hopes the league will be open to working closely with the executive committee in an effort to bring significant change to the sport.
The group’s mission is to rid the hockey of racism and intolerance and be a positive force not only in the sport, but across every walk of society. The hope is that their efforts to make hockey more open and accepting, they can inspire a new generation of players and create new fans from communities that have often felt unwelcome.
The culture of hockey has long been one of conformity. Be quiet, be professional and don’t stand out. That has led to systemic issues going unaddressed for far too long. The HDA is hoping to change that.
“I think hockey, unfortunately, has a different culture than some of the other sports in terms of speaking out and using your voice and speaking your mind,” Evander Kane told ESPN. “That’s another part of our problem is guys being scared to really speak their mind and stand up for what is right.”
Earlier this year Akim Aliu broke years of silence about the racism he faced that sidetracked his professional hockey career. Now others are standing up to not only speak out, but demand change within the hockey establishment.
As with the rest of society, hockey culture needs to change and become more inclusive. That involves undoing decades worth of racism and bias against the LGBTQ community. The formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance is the first step in doing that. It is a small step but hopefully the HDA will inspire many more to come forward and fight for change.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, executive director if the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr expressed his support - as well as the support of the NHLPA - for the players who are willing to stand up and speak out:
“I’m really proud of the guys. They understand it’s an important moment. They understand what the issues are, at least in the grand scope. And they’re making their voice heard. Not everybody, but quite a lot.”
Now the NHL needs to do the same. Last week, the league released a message of support for the anti-racism protests that are going on around the world, but taking the next step towards action is essential. Being open to working closely with the HDA would be a logical next step.
Immediately after the announcement of the executive committee, other black hockey players such as Saroya Tinker or the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters reached out to express interest in joining the HDA. Through Tara Sloan, Aliu says this is a preliminary list and women members will be announced soon.
Here is the complete release announcing the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance: