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Hockey Is For Everyone

Commissioner Bettman, King make commitment to equity, inclusion in hockey

New partnership between NHL, tennis great looks to elevate dialogue on diversity

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

Advancing Equity Summit

Bettman, King lead Advancing Equity Summit in Vegas

Commissioner Gary Bettman and Billie Jean King reveal historic partnership at the Declaring Our Principles Advancing Equity Summit in Las Vegas

  • 01:30 •

LAS VEGAS -- Tennis great Billie Jean King and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said hockey has made strides toward gender equity and inclusion but there's still more work to be done.

King and the Commissioner, speaking Tuesday at the inaugural "Declaring our Principles - Advancing Equity: A Summit on Inclusion," agreed that hockey, and sports in general, can be the catalyst for change for women to achieve and advance whether it be on the ice, on the playing field or in the corporate suite.


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"Girls have always been used to getting the crumbs. We're all supposed to be so excited when we get the crumbs," King said. "But every human being deserves to taste the icing with the cherry on top. But we need everyone working together, men and women, all genders working to make this happen."

Commissioner Bettman said change is necessary because "together, we need to evolve, we're going to learn from each other's opportunities, and we're going to be better than we would be just staying in our lanes."

Video: NHL announces Female Hockey Ambassador Program

"Yes, we can make a difference in people's lives because we have that platform, but I also think we have an obligations, as sports, to let people be, to use an old cliché, the best that they can be," Bettman said. "It's about what we have in common, not what separates us. And to the extent that there are particular segments of society that have been left behind, we have the opportunity to elevate and bring more people together." 

King and Commissioner Bettman shared their views during the half-day summit's opening session, which was moderated by Kim Davis, the NHL's Executive Vice President, Social Impact, Growth Initiatives & Legislative Affairs.

The summit, held at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, is part of a partnership between the NHL and the Billie Jean King Initiative to advance diversity and gender equality across hockey and highlight the League's continued commitment to furthering those efforts.

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The partnership will support research, action, advocacy and collaboration with organizations that have significant community impact. The relationship includes a commitment to continue to elevate dialogue through Hockey is For Everyone, an initiative led by the NHL and the NHL Players' Association, to promote inclusion on the ice, in locker rooms, boardrooms and the stands.

At the summit, the League unveiled two new initiatives aimed at increasing gender equity and diversity. It announced its first Diversity and Inclusion Senior Leadership Council, which will be co-chaired by Commissioner Bettman and Buffalo Sabres owner and president Kim Pegula.

The NHL and the NHLPA, through the Industry Growth Fund, also announced the establishment of the Female Hockey Ambassador Program.

The program, originating from the NHL and NHLPA's Female Hockey Advisory Committee created earlier this year, will provide NHL clubs with funding and enhanced opportunities to use Female Hockey Ambassadors to serve as community liaisons to execute grassroots marketing events, promotions and projects with a focus on girls and women.

"When young girls meet their role models and see first-hand what women can achieve in hockey, they will know there is no barrier for them participating in the sport as well," said Maria Dennis, chair of the Female Hockey Advisory Committee.

Hockey has seen recent gains among women at all levels of the game. Davis joined the NHL in December 2018; she is one of the highest-ranking black women executives in sports.

Video: King joins Bettman at Advancing Equity Summit

In May, USA Hockey announced the hiring of Stephanie Jackson, a black woman, as its first director of diversity and inclusion.

The NHL Seattle expansion franchise hired Kendall Boyd-Tyson in May as its vice president for strategy and analytics.

The Carolina Junior Hurricanes named Jazmine Miley as coach of its girls Under-16 program in May.

Miley, who played for NCAA Division III Finlandia University and for Liberty University of the American Collegiate Hockey Association, will be one of the few women of color coaching hockey at any level.   

Commissioner Bettman said more than 45 percent of the NHL fanbase is female. 

"Holy Ca-Moly! That equals potential to me," King said. "Hello?"

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King lauded the summit and its attendees for their commitment. She urged that the talk about gender equity, diversity and inclusion be followed by concrete timelines to achieve results.

"Otherwise, we'll have these, and it will make us all feel good in the room but then nothing happens," she said. "That's been going on for centuries, and we really have to put the feet to the fire, so to speak, and make us accountable."

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