So much has happened in the last two weeks that it has been hard to focus on hockey, between the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests sweeping the country (and the world) in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
As our own Craig Nakagai wrote so well last week while hockey and the NHL are beginning to take steps to address the longstanding racism and diversity issues that have plagued the sport much work remains.
Today another step forward was taken with the announcement of the formation of the hockey diversity alliance.
Evander Kane, Akim Aliu, Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward (all minority players) will form the executive committee which will be chaired by Kane and Aliu.
The press release from the diversity alliance goes on to say:
“We will promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with youth and will endeavor to make the game more affordable and accessible. We will also focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport while advocating for acceptance and equality”.
There is much to be admired here. One of the major issues with increasing the diversity of hockey has long been the barrier to entry. Hockey equipment is expensive, ice time is expensive, league fees are expensive. The hundreds and even thousands of dollars required annually to play competitive youth hockey are beyond the reach of many in lower-income minority groups.
Players like Aliu have also been vocal about the bullying and abuse they received in minor league hockey and the NHL (a point notably omitted from the NHL’s statement about their discussions with Aliu) and changing the culture of hockey starts with more diversity and zero tolerance of abusive cultures from the earliest ages.
It is notable however that there is one voice missing from this statement. Women in hockey are already a minority and women of color even more so. Players like Sarah Nurse and Saroya Tinker have been vocal online voices advocating for change and diversity but their signatures and voices are missing from the statement. Although the organization did come out later today and say they hope to add some women to the executive committee soon one would hope that their input would be present from the start.
There is also real value in engaging with minority fans. Particularly female minority fans. The Black Girl Hockey Club is an amazing organization that has done much to promote hockey among minority female fans and provide access to hockey for young female minority players. The founder of Black Girl Hockey Club, Renee Hess, is a powerhouse in the hockey community who has done as much as anyone to broaden the appeal of hockey and it would be wise for the hockey diversity alliance to engage with her and her organization.
As a privileged white woman, it isn’t my place to tell minority women how to engage with hockey but it is important to listen, to amplify, and project their voices. Hockey can and should address the diversity issues in the sport if we truly mean “hockey is for everyone”.
A slogan that our own Dallas Stars have done a fairly dismal job of remembering in the past, up to and including forgetting any level of organization for said night in 2017.
As Stars fans and hockey fans it’s our job to hold the team and the league accountable in the months and years ahead.
Featured Image: Bill Smith/Getty Images