This week has seen the launch of a groundbreaking new initiative in hockey with the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, design to advance equality and inclusion within the sport.
The Coalition is co-chaired by former NHL players Anson Carter and P.K. Subban, with 20 male and female members from across players of colour, LGBTQIA+ and allies. It’s already had more than $1 million earmarked from the NHL and NHLPA to go towards grassroots hockey and inclusion-focused projects.
The aim is to grow the sport by attracting more diverse audiences through creating a welcoming atmosphere for them and showing that they belong in hockey. During the 2022-23 season, $5,000 grants were given out to organisations including Seattle Pride Hockey Association and The Empowerment Effect, which mentors young girls from underserved LA districts.
Diversity and Inclusion
High-profile members include Cam Atkinson from Philadelphia Flyers, Madison Bowey from Montreal Canadiens and Zach Whitecloud from Stanley Cup winners Vegas Golden Knights as well as 2023 Hockey Hall of Famer Caroline Ouellette.
Those involved in the Coalition have already made their mark within the sport, bringing diverse voices to the table and running educational programs for people involved in hockey at all levels.
One of the key voices is Minnesota Wild player Ryan Reaves, who stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion for the future of the NHL: “The more diverse the group is, the more ideas that are going to come out of it.
“I think that’s the most important thing, is you have so many people from different backgrounds who played the sport, who haven’t played the sport, who come from different cities, different cultures.”
Reaves and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk were involved in the incident that led to the idea of the Coalition, back in 2020 when the Stanley Cup play-offs were postponed following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
The decision was made when Shattenkirk contacted Reaves on behalf of fellow Eastern Conference players to discuss calling for the postponement. That impact was followed by the creation of the NHL Player Inclusion Committee that same year to combat racism in the sport.
The Coalition has been created to turn talk into action, with Reaves saying: “If you’re just talking, you’re not really doing much. I think when you start a committee like that, you’re just kind of spitballing, and nobody really knows the first step. You’ve got to form a plan first.”
Specialty Jersey Ban causes outrage
However, it may already have its first challenge with the news this week that specialty jerseys have been banned from being worn in warm-ups before NHL games. In the past these have been worn for occasions like Pride Night, Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Military Appreciation Night and Hockey Fights Cancer.
Not all players were happy about wearing these sweaters though and their refusal to do so caused a political storm within the sport last season. Now such specialty warm-up jerseys are banned, though NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insists that specialty nights will continue to be held.
The ban has already caused additional controversy, with Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid both speaking out against it.
Written and distributed by Chat T Sports.