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Saturday, July 2, 2022

‘Movement, not moment’: NHL focuses on racial diversity


Anson Carter remembers in high school watching some of his friends quit hockey because they were “too white” as he moved forward with his professional career in mind. By the time he got into the National Hockey League, the dreadlocks were coming out from under his helmet. how he rode.

“It wasn’t, ‘Well, it might be black, we’re not really sure, we really don’t know,'” he said with a hint of pride in his voice. You knew I was Black.

As one of the few black players in the NHL at the time, his presence throughout his career, which spanned from 1996 to 2007, did not go unnoticed by his friends in Toronto. They told him that their children played hockey.

“I’m even more proud of that than of playing in the league myself, because they’re like, ‘You played, so why shouldn’t my kids play?’,” Carter said. “Seeing how my friends’ minds have changed is amazing.”

Fifteen years after Carter hung up his skates, the NHL has made what it sees as significant progress in increasing diversity on the ice and in the stands—a long-overdue ambition to expand hockey’s presence around the world and close the gap in popularity with others. hockey leagues. USA Expanding minority participation in governance, coaching and refereeing is part of a long-term plan that leaders hope will change the face of hockey in the coming years.

“Anyone who expects us to wave a magic wand and all of this to happen immediately, not over time, doesn’t understand how real change works,” said Kim Davis, who joined the NHL as executive vice president of social impact. , development and development. legislative issues at the end of 2017. “I am encouraged by the fact that our owners and leaders of our 32 clubs and at the NHL level are committed to this. People are leaning towards it. They understand that this is, as I often say, a movement, not a moment, and it will take time for us to make changes. But we already see it.”

Davis said there are currently 54 active players who are Arab, Asian, Black, Hispanic or Indigenous, roughly 7% of the league. Although the NHL does not keep official statistics on the racial composition of the teams, this is significantly more than when Carter played.

This post-season has been a showcase for that diversity, with several minority players at the forefront.

Nazem Kadri, of Lebanese descent, was one of Colorado’s most influential players and scored the game-winning overtime goal in Game 4 of the final Wednesday to take the Avalanche one win from the Stanley Cup, while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, black and from France, is an important newcomer for Tampa Bay in its three-peat bid. New York Rangers fan favorite Ryan Reeves and defenseman K’Andre Miller and black Edmonton star Evander Kane played in the conference finals.

“Now there is a small child at home who can watch the game and say: “Look!”, said Bellemare. “Because, naturally, you’re trying to imitate someone you see yourself in.”

Richard Lapczyk, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, said having black stars in hockey “will also increase the speed at which young black kids can get into hockey.” Reaves in the spotlight marketing campaigns is just one of several paths that need to be successful to see significant growth.

The push for more diversity in front-office hiring has so far had more success with women than with people of color. Carter and Davis pointed to the Dallas Stars’ recent hiring of Al Montoya as director of communications as a tangible step forward after his involvement in the NHL’s Player Inclusion Committee, one of several created since Akim Aliu’s 2019 revelations. a victim of racist remarks by a juvenile coach and racial reckoning in the US that began in 2020.

Montoya recently wrote in a notepad, “Permanent change doesn’t happen over time,” and shared a theory with Carter that more diverse front offices would bring the same change on the ice.

“It’s one thing to hire just for the sake of hiring, and you don’t want to do that,” said Montoya, a retired goaltender who was the NHL’s first Cuban-American and first Hispanic player. “You want the best. Different minds bring different points of view and that results in a great product. I always use the concept that you don’t want all right-handed players to be on the ice. The same goes for the office. You don’t need everyone who thinks the same way.”

Carter compares this to the days when European players were considered weak or when American students were overlooked because they didn’t follow the path of junior hockey in Canada. The NHL has undoubtedly become the best product after their extensive integration.

“Seeing different players play on the ice has become the norm because they normalize in the front office,” Carter said. “And people might not say, ‘If this guy has dreadlocks and plays, we’re not really sure if he’s serious about playing hockey or going to be a rapper,’ if you have a black person like me, or in the front office or part of the management team.

The NHL is set to release its first demographic survey and report on diversity, equality and inclusion in July, which Davis says will make clear that demographics are changing in the league in terms of representation. Lapczyk said the NHL is working with him for the first time on a racial and gender-based report card that could deliver results in about six months.

“It also gives us a baseline so that we can measure and be accountable for the future,” Davis said. “We will look at youth participation and the number of children of color in our First Shift programs in Canada and our Learn to Play programs. We see that the flow of children moving to elite paths is increasing. All of these indicators are moving in the right direction, which is what we want. We want these indicators to point in the right direction.”

This grassroots effort to develop the game among blacks, Hispanics, and other underrepresented communities – a smart business move for any league – has been going on for a long time. Lapczyk notes that despite decades of Major League Baseball efforts and financial investment, there are now fewer black players than ever before, and he understands that this is a problem for hockey as well.

“It’s an expensive sport – it’s not that affordable,” Lapchik said. “So, it’s an uphill battle at this level.”

Carter, who chairs the Player Recruitment Committee and is an analyst at Turner Sports, is in constant contact with U.S. hockey officials and other organizations to continue working on these efforts, including last year’s creation of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Willie O’Ree Academy, which offers Black players free training. The Penguins also launched a hockey diversity program run by former Jamaica national team captain Jayden Lindo and worked to open Pittsburgh’s first downtown rink in decades.

“This is the kind of deliberate work that needs to continue at every single level across all of our markets that will really change all of these things,” Davis said.

This dial is not at zero. According to Davis, women make up 40% of NHL fans, and 25% of the total are people of color. The work now is to build that into the future, and next steps, Carter says, include greater representation of minorities in the front office and ownership roles.

“We are moving in the right direction,” he said. “It will happen over time as more candidates are brought to the table. You will see how it happens slowly but surely.”


Follow Associated Press hockey writer Steven Wyno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWhyno.


More Associated Press NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

World Nation News Desk
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