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Kings launch initiative to make hockey more inclusive

Aims to combat racism as part of alliance with other Los Angeles-area pro teams

by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Kings launched an inclusion initiative Tuesday that's designed to help eradicate racism in hockey and beyond, as well as to build equity in sports.

The LA Kings Inclusion Initiative will be guided by Blake Bolden, who became the NHL's first Black female scout when the Kings hired her six months ago, and will strive to combat racism by tackling systemic issues in the greater Los Angeles area and within the hockey industry while creating opportunities and equity within the game.

The initiative stems from the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25.

"Amidst all the outcry that was amplified with the murder of George Floyd and countless others and the recurring evidence of systemic racism in our society, we have devoted an enormous amount of time looking inward at our organization and our sport at all levels here locally in Los Angeles," Kings chief operating officer Kelly Cheeseman said. "It is clearly evident that we can do more to contribute to systemic change."

The Kings' initiative will work in conjunction with The Alliance: Los Angeles, a collaboration of all 11 professional sports teams in the area that has a five-year commitment to drive investment and work toward social justice through sport. The other teams are the Anaheim Ducks, Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Angels and Los Angeles Dodgers, the NFL's Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, and the Los Angeles Galaxy and Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer.

"Our goal is pretty simple: to unite as allies," said Tom Penn, president and owner of the Los Angeles Football Club. "In many cases we're rivals, but, in this case, we're allies to push against racial injustice and to take on important issues in communities of color, particularly the Black community."

The Kings' inclusion initiative will also focus independently on several areas internally and externally, including hiring, recruiting and development/training; youth hockey and ice sports accountability; youth hockey development and equity expansion; fan education, growth and inclusion; voting and census partnerships with the State of California; Kings Care commitments; and participation in the The Alliance. The initiative will have more details next week, including an announcement about the organization's first free, weeklong youth hockey camp.

"We're just trying to eradicate racism around the world of hockey and really create some inclusion in our game," Bolden said. "No. 1, we have to be diligent in expressing to our fans that we want to diversify and we want to bring people of color into our game because representation matters. Going out there in the communities, having ball hockey initiatives, working with YMCAs and public schools (are things) that we're definitely going to do."

Bolden brings a wealth of hockey experience to the task. She was captain Boston College, then in 2013 became the first U.S-born Black player to be a first-round draft pick (No. 5) in the now-defunct Canadian Women's Hockey League. Two years later, she became the first Black player to compete in the National Women's Hockey League. The 29-year-old played on a championship team in each league.

Bolden will retain her duties scouting American Hockey League teams for Los Angeles while working with Kings executive leadership, the Kings Care Foundation and hockey fevelopment departments to define diversity and inclusion initiatives inside and outside of the organization.

"We're committed to do more and more to get involved in meaningful ways as allies in the fight against racial injustices," said Bolden, who was an All-Star defenseman in the CWHL and NWHL. "We want to level that playing field, drive more opportunities for youth in sports because sports have that powerful impact on the youth, and with the alliance, this is the chance to show the real power of sport."

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