The NHL must lead the way in hockey's drive to become more diverse and inclusive, Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday on NBC Sports' "Hockey Culture."
"If we're going to make a difference through all levels of our game, we have to be setting the example at the NHL and club level," Commissioner Bettman told "NHL on NBC" analyst Anson Carter, host of the show dedicated to bringing more equality and inclusion to hockey.
Commissioner Bettman and Kim Davis, NHL senior executive vice president, social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, were Carter's guests on the latest episode of the show, which is available on NBC Sports' YouTube channel.
The Commissioner and Davis discussed the progress hockey has made in terms of diversity, equality and inclusion, and what more the sport needs to do.
They also talked about the decision by the players to take a two-day pause during the Stanley Cup Playoffs in August as a form of protest against systemic racism and police brutality in society.
"The players came together and thought it would be appropriate to pause and we were very supportive of that," Commissioner Bettman said, "but we had believed all along that in order for a pause to be meaningful, it really had to be at the initiative and will of our players, who wanted to make a statement as opposed to the League saying we are simply going to shut down for two days. I know there was a lot of focus on what we did or didn't do, but I was very comfortable that what we were doing was responsive to what our players wanted."
Davis called the pause a pivotal moment.
"I think our approach was appropriate because if you look at the history of sports, any social movement in sport has been led by players," she said. "Particularly, in my opinion, in our sport, which is predominantly white, we need allies ... for this to be a movement and not just a moment, we have to have the advocacy of all players. For me, it was a proud time for our sport and a watershed moment because of allyship."
Commissioner Bettman and Davis said they envision hockey being a more diverse sport within the next five years.
"To me, progress looks like we become more reflective of the communities in which our teams play," the Commissioner said. "That there are Black players, players of both sexes, players of color, that we are more diverse than we have been ... I want to make sure that anybody feels comfortable and welcome to play hockey or being part of the hockey family at any level of our game."
Davis said she wants hockey to be on the minds of boys and girls of color the same way basketball, baseball and soccer are.
"That's my personal vision as a mother, grandmother, as a Black woman, for the sport of hockey, that everyone feels like it is a sport for them."
Commissioner Bettman and Davis pointed to the expansion Seattle Kraken as an example how hockey and diversity go hand in hand. The franchise has hired women and minorities for key positions, including Alexandra Mandrycky as director of hockey strategy and research.
Last month, the Kraken hired Everett Fitzhugh as their team broadcaster, making him the first Black person to hold that position in the NHL.
"Tod Leiweke, who is the CEO, and David Bonderman, who is the principal owner, have made it a priority to make sure that they are creating a vibrant diverse organization -- diversity brings you strength," the Commissioner said. "When you're starting from scratch and you have the right values and you have the right goals and objectives, you can really make a difference and be very reflective of your community. And every step of the way, they've been doing the right things in a first-class way."