June 8th, 2020 marked the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Spearheaded by an executive committee of seven current and former NHL players with Akim Aliu and Evander Kane at the forefront. It is the HDA’s mission to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey. It will be a long and difficult process, but they are well on their way.
Since their formation they have shown that meaningful change in hockey is the most important to them.
Let’s create sustainable change on every level within hockey.
We will educate and encourage accountability from our leagues and leaders. At the grassroots level, we will work to ensure hockey is accessible to anyone who loves the game.#ISupportHDA | https://t.co/zBFO5GjauA pic.twitter.com/rH2h8QImey
— Hockey Diversity Alliance (@TheOfficialHDA) August 11, 2020
Access and opportunity is just one place to begin.
Former Canadian NHL hockey player Akim Aliu helped to establish a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) hockey team that played in a recent tournament in Etobicoke. Read more: https://t.co/i1YLEeM8tS pic.twitter.com/yl6kPQBFRz
— CBC Toronto (@CBCToronto) September 15, 2020
Then the focus moves to the opposite end of the spectrum where the onus falls on the greater institution I still change. The institution being the NHL to start.
To say the National Hockey League has missed the mark with showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement is an understatement. The standing, the kumbaya community circles, the #weskatefor campaign, and the end racism sign, did not do what they were hoping. In fact it’s brought about disappointment from fans. These actions made it seem like the league was skating around the issue at hand, showing their privileges in the worst way. They couldn’t utter the three words Black Lives Matter, and that was a problem. They are acting like they don’t have a large role to play in this uphill battle faced by BIPOC.
Nights like these make it exhausting to be a person of colour who loves this game. We’re watching history play out, seeing others lead, demand change, show the way.
And it’s never been more clear the NHL believes this is someone else’s fight. That it just doesn’t apply to them.
— Sonny Sachdeva (@SachdevaSonny) August 27, 2020
To many, the reason seemed to be an attempt to appease the owners and fans who could care less about police brutality.
the people in my mentions and everyone else’s mentions saying the nhl players shouldn’t cancel their games are the exact complicit hockey fans that the nhl caters to when they refuse to take a solid stance against racism and i refuse to give these people the time of my day
— i (@hintzenthusiast) August 27, 2020
In the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, sports came to a halt. Well, all except hockey. Ths HDA released a statement on the evening of August 27th with an ask.
Our response to the NHL’s response to the radical injustice and violence. pic.twitter.com/c9vfcwOJ7t
— Hockey Diversity Alliance (@TheOfficialHDA) August 27, 2020
Even with this move, it seems that not even the Hockey Diversity Alliance could bring Commissioner Bettman to put the games on pause at the same time leaders in the NBA among other leagues took a stand. With the previous efforts of the league this does not come as a surprise. It took the work and conversation of the current players and the Alliance to host a two day player strike. The western conference players joined forces during a press conference to announce this.
What we all saw on Zoom in the Western Bubble yesterday was just part of the story. The line of Western players standing together, in fact, stretched across the entire media room out of frame.
Image posted to Instagram by NHL videographer Rob Newman (who has a locked account): pic.twitter.com/3sLzQzQ4Yw
— Thomas Drance (@ThomasDrance) August 28, 2020
In the time away from the game, players came together to listen to presentations from the HDA and hopefully they learned valuable information throughout.
A week later on September 3rd, the NHL and NHLPA announced anti-racism efforts of their own. They were met with mixed emotions.
It’s a step, but the problems with the NHL have always been that they usually follow up steps with two backwards ones. https://t.co/b9X2LN7nlR
— death metal dad (@briancrd) September 3, 2020
A lot of talk, and a lot of old ideas presented as new initiatives. I hope the NHL puts their money where their mouth is and actually do what they promise here. https://t.co/uSZK7R62l6
— Vee (@glutamatic) September 3, 2020
Great start here. Hoping clubs buy in and follow the lead to have more direct impact in their communities. https://t.co/UBTZewxacm
— Nora Cothren (@NoLowCo) September 3, 2020
There is no place for performative action from the NHL in the fight against racism. While these committees are great, they are nowhere near perfect. Will there be fans and youth on their respective committees? Will there be subcommittees to accomplish the former if they won’t directly sit on FIC and YHIC? Some questions to which answers are needed. All that being said, this is a step in the right direction, it just can’t be a one time thing.Even with all these things that have been announced, there are still no plans for the league to partner with and take the pledge of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. The HDA made the request on July 14th bringing it back to light during the player strike. As of October 7th they plan to operate independent of the NHL due to their lack of a response.
As the year comes to a close and a new season is about to begin, now more than ever we need to hear about the continuation of these initiatives from the NHL. It is also due time for the league and the HDA to partner with Black Girl Hockey Club in their pledge to #GetUncomfortable. More information about this pledge can be foundhere. Working with grassroots organizations as well as working directly with Black folks at the forefront of the battle is where these organizations need to be.
This is not a moment, it’s a movement.