'This provides us a benchmark': NHL releases 1st diversity and inclusion report
24-page document aims to highlight efforts to 'promote positive social change'
Kim Davis is proud of the work done to this point. She also knows there's still a long road ahead.
The NHL's executive vice-president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs presented the league's first-ever comprehensive diversity and inclusion report to the board of governors Tuesday in New York.
The 24-page document aims to highlight efforts to "promote positive social change" in hockey, including an overview of work done at the league level and by its 32 teams over the past two years, and an anonymous workforce study that allowed employees to self-identify across racial demographics, gender identity and sexual orientation.
"Putting a stake in the ground is important for our accountability," Davis said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "Compared to other sports leagues, there are areas where we are advanced.
The NHL's data shows close to 84 per cent of league and club employees identify as white. Black, Indigenous and people of colour make up just under 14 per cent.
Davis said the short-term goal is to get that second number up to 25 per cent to mirror the demographics of the NHL fan base.
Women, meanwhile, currently comprise around 37 per cent of the workforce, which is on par with the gender split of fans. More than 93 per cent of respondents identified as straight/heterosexual.
"This provides us a benchmark," said Davis, who added the plan is to release the report every two years. "We can really lean into the development and the mentoring that we know is required in order to grow."
Diversity and inclusion
The document titled "Accelerating Diversity & Inclusion: NHL Report on Strategies, Initiatives and Progress" also includes and updates what the league calls its "seven dimensions" framework to drive change — leadership, education, employment, marketing, partnerships, participation and community engagement.
Davis, who is Black and will mark five years working for the NHL in December, pointed to mentorship programs, the six female assistant general managers hired in the last year alone, and the 40 women who have taken part in the NHL's officials combine as signs of progress.
Mike Grier was hired in July by the San Jose Sharks as the first Black general manager in league history, but Davis knows not everyone is happy with the pace of change.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance — established in the aftermath George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020, and an organization that isn't affiliated with the league — has been critical of the NHL.
'Focus on the long game'
Minnesota Wild defenceman and founding HDA member Matt Dumba, who has a Filipino mother and a white father, described the league to The Associated Press as "the old boys' club and them dictating who is and who isn't welcome."
"This work requires a focus on the long game," Davis said in response to that quote. "I'm not surprised, nor should we be surprised, that the pace of changes isn't fast enough, particularly for those whose lived experience has been tough.
"We're doing the things that are going to ultimately get us to a place where folks will start seeing results."
Davis spoke with Dumba in Minnesota last week and told him that while they have different views on the process, the goal is a shared one — "Kids that look like him and look like me having a fair shake in this sport."
Davis said while the NHL can impact the top of the hockey ecosystem, it's also aiming at lower levels so under-represented groups see a path.
"How our NHL brand is perceived is a function of how these communities feel kids are treated at the youth participation level," she said. "Everything connects to everything else."
Davis is pleased with the ground the league has covered, especially when considering what she thought was in front of her with a sport that's historically been overwhelmingly white, male-dominated and resistant to new ideas.
"I imagined the pace of change would be slower," she said. "Instead of it being evolutionary, it's been far more revolutionary. We're at a good beginning. You never finish with this work if you see it as part of the way your business is run. Diversity and inclusion are about growth — not about charity.
"We have to continue to improve."