DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- St. Louis Blues minority owner David L. Steward was celebrating on the TD Garden ice with his son after the Blues defeated the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on June 12 when he noticed something.
"Everybody was looking at us, they thought we were lost," Steward said Tuesday.
Steward recounted the story Tuesday at the 2019 Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium to illustrate that "there's still a lot of work to be done" when it comes to diversity in hockey.
Steward, founder and chairman of World Wide Technology Inc. and one of 13 black billionaires in the world, is one of the few people of color in the NHL ownership ranks.
Sheila Johnson, chair and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts and a co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, and Earl Stafford, founder and CEO of The Wentworth Group LLC, a private equity and consulting firm, are part owners of the Washington Capitals. Businesswoman Kim Pegula, who is Korean-American, is co-owner of the Buffalo Sabres, and businessman Alex Meruelo, a Cuban-American, is the majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes. Michael Nijjar, who has dual United States and Colombia citizenship, owns a minority share of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Steward was part of an all-local ownership group, led by Tom Stillman, that purchased the Blues from New York-based SCP Worldwide, headed by Dave Checketts, in 2012.
"I looked at it as a community asset," Steward said of the Blues. "I didn't know much about hockey."
Steward, a jazz buff, joked that when he was doing his due diligence before joining the ownership group, he looked at the organization chart and "didn't see Bo Diddley or B.B. King or any of those guys there -- I thought it was a blues band."
"Y'all didn't get that," he told the symposium.
Steward said he's been to seven hockey games in seven years but believes that "the fact that I'm present" in the Blues ownership "means a lot" when it comes to promoting diversity on the local level.
"There is a little thing that we do with the Blues with our internship programs, some of the things that we do with our scholars, and some of the things we're doing with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that we've got going on as they accomplish things," he said. "We are encouraging with the Blues and World Wide and the Steward family to bring their families to a game, not only a game, but in a suite so they experience that … but there's not enough of that going on."
Steward said he's achieved better success diversity-wise in his dealings with NASCAR. World Wide Technology has a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and sponsors Bubba Wallace, one of the sport's few black drivers.
"I think the better examples of what we've had the opportunity to do is actually at the raceway," he said. "I'm going to replicate that in hockey at that level."
To that end, Steward met in Daytona Beach with Kim Davis, NHL Executive Vice President for Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs.
"I think there are some strategies and thoughts that she has and I have that we can collaborate and transform hockey forever," he said.
Photos courtesy of Damon Kwame Mason