William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he looks at the premium being placed on diversity and inclusion in hiring by NHL Seattle, which will ice the League's 32nd team in the 2021-22 season.
Opportunity knocks but once, the proverb says. But sometimes it skates too.
Kyle Boyd was at a public skating session at a suburban Seattle rink when an older gentleman on the ice struck up a casual conversation with him, asking about his experiences with skating, playing hockey and coaching the game.
"He happened to be Tod Leiweke," Boyd said of the president and CEO of NHL Seattle, which will ice the League's newest team beginning in 2021-22. "We got to talking and had a nice conversation. And then he offered me his card and said we should get coffee sometime, which is big in Seattle, and I said that would be great."
The chance meeting led to Boyd and his sister, Kendall Boyd-Tyson, being hired by NHL Seattle, whose leaders say they're putting a premium on diversity and inclusion in hiring throughout the organization.
"It's fantastic," Leiweke said of hiring the Minnesota-raised siblings. "And you know what? No matter their gender, what their race, they were the best candidates. But it so worked out that we can also make a statement. And so, I get emotional talking about this because it's fantastic. They couldn't be better people. A brother and sister combo. It's just fantastic."
Boyd-Tyson, who was initially recommended to Leiweke by her brother, was hired as vice president for strategy and analytics. She joined NHL Seattle from Topgolf, an international golf entertainment company, where she worked on corporate development and strategy.
She is one of six female vice presidents among the 11 VPs hired by NHL Seattle so far and is one of two people of color who hold the title in the organization.
"I help on the team side as well as the arena," said Boyd-Tyson, who earned a master's degree from the Yale School of Management and a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Georgia Tech. "It could be anything from ticketing strategy to marketing strategy to arena operations. Any questions or things we want to tackle, my job is to create financial and operational models that help us facilitate those decisions."
Boyd was hired as youth and community development/training director. He'll help lead NHL Seattle's youth hockey efforts in the region, from learn-to-skate programs to street hockey to playing the game on ice.
"One of the things we're hoping to do is continue some of the great initiatives that the NHL already has -- Hockey is for Everyone initiatives, making sure that people see the game and get a chance to experience it whether it's at our own facility and practice arena," he said. "Just kind of lowering some of those barriers to entry for everyone. And then … showing them the people who are already playing and engaging at high levels of hockey, people of color who come from all walks of live an all backgrounds regardless of race and ethnicity."
The siblings are from hockey stock. Their father, Dr. Joel Boyd, is the team physician for the Minnesota Wild and was the NHL's first black team doctor. He also was the first black physician for the U.S. Olympics men's hockey team, working at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. That was the first Olympics that NHL players participated.
He was also the National Football League's second black team physician, working for the Minnesota Vikings.
"We would go to Wild games, we would go to [University of Minnesota] Gophers games, we went to high school hockey games, we went to minor league games," Boyd-Tyson said. "When you're a kid, that's your 'dad time' -- that was our time for us. He would come home, pick us up and we would get a chance to hang out with him in the car, he would kind of park us in the seats during games and say, 'Don't move, I'll be right back.'"
Dr. Boyd said he was surprised and thrilled by his children not only getting NHL jobs but landing on the same team.
'I think it's awesome, I never imagined," he said. "To have them in the NHL, to me it feels like they're in the family business."
His children grew up playing the game. Kyle skated for the varsity team at the Blake School in Minneapolis and Kendall Boyd-Tyson went on to become captain of a club team at Yale.
"Being one of the few players of color on any given team or on the ice at a time has always been a big part of my experience," said Kyle Boyd, who has a bachelor's degree in history from Dartmouth College and a master's in education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. "As I've entered not only my professional career but my coaching career, I think it has been incredibly impactful to have players of different backgrounds, different experiences and different communities. When you have a more diverse workplace, a more diverse team, you ultimately become more successful and are able to accomplish all your goals and then some."
NHL Seattle apparently agrees. April West, vice president for human resources, said the team is "striving to ensure that we have diversity represented.
"We think by being specific and deliberate about insuring that candidates being interviewed and considered are diverse that that will help drive our diversity as a whole," she said, "and we've had some good success so far."