Since the murder of George Floyd, plans to achieve racial equity have been at the forefront of discussions across the country and abroad. Thankfully, the world of hockey will not be exempt from these important conversations.
Monday, several minority NHL players announced the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. The coalition is aiming to permanently eliminate racism from hockey culture and “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.”
San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane and former NHLer Akim Aliu are serving as the alliance’s co-heads, and former Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, now playing for the Buffalo Sabres, will serve on the executive committee with current Flyer Chris Stewart, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley and former NHLer Joel Ward.
According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick recently offered his support and guidance when meeting with members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance via Zoom calls.
We are proud to announce the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance ✊ pic.twitter.com/TAucuYJxp2— Wayne Simmonds (@Simmonds17) June 8, 2020
The NHL has seen a number of race-related incidents in recent years. In November, former Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters resigned after it was revealed that he directed racial slurs at Aliu during his rookie season. More recently, New York Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller was the recipient of racial epithets by an anonymous online user during a Zoom Q&A in April.
Wayne Simmonds has been the victim of racial harassment as well. During a 2011 preseason game against the Red Wings in London, Ontario, a fan threw a banana at Simmonds while he was participating in the shootout. Simmonds issued a statement on the incident soon after.
“It was unfortunate that this incident happened but I am above this sort of stuff,” he said. “This is something that is obviously out of my control. Moving forward, this incident is something that I will no longer comment on so I can just focus playing hockey for the Philadelphia Flyers.”
While the Hockey Diversity Alliance will operate independently, the group will work closely with the NHL in order to bring positive and much-needed change to hockey culture.
The NHL is also in the process of forming its own committees to fight racism. Kim Davis, NHL senior executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, believes these committees will be essential to hockey’s growth in the coming years.
“These are the things that are going to sustain our League for the long haul, and when fans and potential fans see that we’re serious about this and that they see the action and the movement in this direction, I think that’s when they are going to believe that we’re serious, and that’s how we’re going to grow this game.”