Confronting racism at the grassroots level is the key to ending it throughout hockey, members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance said on a group call that appeared on YouTube on Monday.
"I think I speak for all of us in saying that we all love hockey," Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba said. "It's given us and our families a way out, and so many people, our friends, our family have benefitted from it. I think it's the best game in the world, yet there is something rotten still at its core, and that comes down to the grassroots and the teaching. I think our whole group is about that and knows that we have to be role models for the youth, to build this game."
The alliance includes Dumba, Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks, Wayne Simmonds of the Buffalo Sabres, Trevor Daley of the Detroit Red Wings, Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche, Anthony Duclair of the Ottawa Senators, Chris Stewart of the Philadelphia Flyers, and former NHL players Joel Ward and Akim Aliu.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance was formed after George Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 while in police custody in Minneapolis. A white police officer has been charged with second-degree murder, and the other three officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. The incident sparked protests in cities across the United States.
Duclair said one of the keys to ending racism in the sport is to keep more young players of color participating in it.
"You hear so many kids year after year quit hockey because they don't want to go through [hearing racial taunts]," Duclair said on the call, which was hosted by filmmaker Charles Officer. "We really want to bring awareness that there is a racism problem in hockey, and whoever thinks otherwise, whoever has any backlash over that statement, is part of the problem because we have lived through it.
"This has been going on since the start of hockey."
Aliu, whose public comments about racism he faced during the 2009-10 season while playing in junior hockey led to Bill Peters resigning as coach of the Calgary Flames in November, said racism is not the only reason for children of color are not playing, or sticking with, hockey.
"We feel a lot of kids get eliminated before they even begin because of the economical strain that hockey provides on parents," Aliu said. "It's kind of one of those things that most people of color don't grow up privileged, don't come up with the best socioeconomical backgrounds, so that's one that I know hits near and dear to me and the rest of the group.
"A lot of us had to deal with those issues. I think starting right at the bottom level, kids getting into the game at the young age, being able to provide them with assistance, either it be financially or with gear, giving them that assistance to get to the next level. The way we are looking at it as a team, it's not just about hockey, it's not just about sports. If we can get a kid to play major junior, that means right away he's going to get a free education, it changes his life forever. I think we need to look at, not just from a sports background or a hockey background, what their life could be if we keep them in the game."
Kane, who said the group is willing to partner with the NHL, said a key step toward progress would be getting some of the biggest hockey organizations on board with the alliance's mission.
"We want to be able to effect change at the youth level immediately," Kane said. "We feel strongly, a way we can do that immediately is by implementing policies into associations such as Hockey Canada and USA Hockey. I think those are two of the biggest hockey associations in the world, especially in North America, and we feel strongly by them taking on some of our policies and our suggestions and our initiatives and implementing that into their organization, when it comes to all of their leagues spread across the country, that we can create real change and real accountability among the higher-ups, which, again, will have that trickle-down effect to create change hopefully on the ice and obviously in the dressing room."
Dumba said, "We want to make it smoother, and hopefully 10-20 years from now it's (racism) not even a thing. And then we can look back, and kids who are coming up, our kids, our grandkids, are saying, 'Hey this is what they went through back in the day, but it's not relevant anymore'."