NHL

Kane, Aliu among active, retired NHLers forming Hockey Diversity Alliance to remove racism in sport

Several present and past NHL players of colour have formed Hockey Diversity Alliance in an attempt to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.

Group wants to confront sport's culture of intolerance

Sharks forward Evander Kane, right, and former NHL player Akim Aliu, left, are the leading voices of the newly formed Hockey Diversity Alliance. The organization promises "to strive to be a force for positive change, not only within hockey but society." (Getty Images/File)

Several present and past NHL players of colour have formed Hockey Diversity Alliance in an attempt to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.

Led by San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane and one-time Calgary Flames forward Akim Aliu, the organization said it would strive to be a force for positive change not only within hockey but society.

"Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes," read a news release signed by seven players, including Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba and Buffalo Sabres forward Wayne Simmonds.

"We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office."

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Hockey Diversity Alliance vows to:

  • Promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with youth, endeavouring to make the game more affordable and accessible.
  • Focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport while advocating for acceptance and equality.

Last November, Bill Peters resigned as Flames head coach after a firestorm of controversy amid allegations of racial slurs and physical abuse of players in previous jobs.

His departure came on the heels of Aliu weeting he had a racial slur directed his way by Peters in the 2009-10 season while a member of the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs.

NHL unveils measures to combat abuse

In December, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly issued a joint statement after meeting with Aliu.

"We are pleased to have met with Akim Aliu today and had a productive and candid conversation," the statement said. "Today's discussion is part of a broader, thorough review and process that the league is undertaking. We share a mutual objective: ensuring that hockey is an open and inclusive sport at all levels."

A week later, Bettman told reporters at the league board of governors meeting that NHL personnel will be required to attend mandatory counselling regarding racism and anti-bullying. Bettman also talked about the formation of a hotline for people to call to report any such incidents.

"Going forward," he added, "our clubs are on notice that if they become aware of an incident of conduct involving NHL personnel on or off the ice that is clearly inappropriate, unlawful or demonstrably abusive, or that may violate the league's policies involving NHL club personnel, we at the league office — Bill Daly or me — must be immediately advised.

"There will be zero tolerance for any failure to notify us and in the event of such failure, the club and individuals involved can expect severe discipline."

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Last week, Kane called on top stars like Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby and other big-name white athletes to speak out. 

"It's time for guys like Tom Brady and Sidney Crosby, and those type of figures, to speak up about what is right and what is, clearly in this case, unbelievably wrong," he told ESPN. "That's the only way we're going to actually create this unified anger to create that necessary change, especially when you talk about systematic racism."

Crosby released a statement through his charitable foundation's Twitter page on June 3, calling the recent death of George Floyd in Minnesota something that "cannot be ignored."

"Racism that exists today in all forms is not acceptable," Crosby said. "While I am not able to relate to the discrimination that black and minority communities face daily, I will listen and educate myself on how I can help make a difference."

Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby shared his feelings through Twitter, promising to support "every black man, woman, or child until their shoes weigh the same as mine."

HDA to start charitable division

The HDA noted it has partnered with a charitable fiscal sponsor and will launch charitable division in the coming weeks.

"In creating our alliance," the news release stated, "we are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans.

"We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background and will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution.

"We are united in our efforts and promise to work tirelessly to bring about the change our sport and society needs."

With files from The Canadian Press and Associated Press

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