Depending on whether the New York Islanders and Vegas Golden Knights extend their lives in their respective meetings between the conference and the final, chances are the Stanley Cup will be awarded before the end of September. After that, there will be some off-season staples usually set aside for June and July: the concept and free agency in early October. But another tough job looms up for the NHL. The gap between the seasons will provide a critical look at how the league will step up its efforts to promote inclusivity. It has promised a lot in recent months, so that time will be some sort of testing ground.
Mathew Dumba took the racism talk to a new level when he took a knee and raised a fist during the National Anthems a day later before his Minnesota Wild entered the play-in tournament six weeks ago. Ryan Reaves, Robin Lehner, Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson continued the conversation as they knelt together for a match days later. And then, in late August, as athletes from major professional sports across the continent boycotted their game to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisc., NHLers reached a level of awareness that even just a few months ago thought possible. The image of players filling the Zoom screens, too much to fit in one frame, was one of the most powerful in the history of the sport. And the size is only going down.
The players were, of course, the leaders of that movement, as was the case in the NBA and MLB. The NHL was slow in the days following the Blake shooting, tucking its toes in with a half-hearted pre-game moment of silence that was poorly received on social media. But, to the credit of the NHL, the moment the players got together, the league was right on board. No one will ever confuse the NHL with being proactive, but she responded in solidarity. It was behind its players.
“If you look at a movement in sports history, you see that those movements were led by players.” Kim Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, said in a telephone interview with the Hockey News Monday. “I don’t see how you can have a lasting impact and movement in the sport if the players don’t stand for it. And I know a lot of people have different opinions on what should or shouldn’t have happened, but if you have players leading such an effort, especially in our sport – what is, what, 93 percent white? – to build an alliance that was necessary for players to make that decision in our sport, where the majority had to be allies who hadn’t had that experience yet, that’s powerful. I think people are overlooking how powerful that was, not just for that moment, but for the wider movement that we created. I firmly believe that such a thing should always be led by the player, and I think we made the right decision by letting the players take the lead. “
The NHL wasn’t the first to respond to Jacob Blake, but was already deeply planning some major changes in its approach to inclusivity before then, which were sped up last year by talks with Akim Aliu after his revelations about racist language led to Bill. Peters’ resignation as coach of the Calgary Flames. The league announced a code of conduct in January and teased the launch of an Executive Inclusion Council in late spring, when the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police sparked protests across the continent.
Earlier this month, the NHL released a detailed plan on its “Initiatives to Fight Racism and Accelerate Inclusion Efforts.” The malfunction, which you can read here, describes dozens of different initiatives. It includes the EIC, made up of league owners, former players and executives, which is described as follows: “The board, co-chaired by Kim Pegula, owner of Buffalo Sabers and NHL Commissioner Bettman, will be committed to more inclusive thinking and more inclusive outcomes across the hockey ecosystem by candidly assessing its current state; identify opportunities for positive change; and develop tangible action steps and benchmarks that will promote both inclusion and diversity in sport. This council will focus on the importance of measurement data and accountability. ”
And the EIC includes three subcommittees, which are described as follows: “The Player Inclusion Committee (PIC), jointly chaired by PK Subban and Anson Carter and made up of current and former NHL and Women’s National Team Players, the Fan Inclusion Committee (FIC) and the Youth Hockey Inclusion Committee (YHIC) will each develop actionable solutions that positively impact the access, opportunities and experiences that underrepresented groups have in the game – and in the business – of hockey. ”
And the EIC is only a prominent part of a multi-faceted plan. So what’s the latest on the competition’s progress? It looks promising on paper, but the next step is to see it come to life. As Davis explained on Thursday, the EIC will officially begin meeting after the close of the Stanley Cup final. Korn Ferry, a consulting firm focused on diversity and inclusion, has already begun interviewing EIC members. The Fan Inclusion Committee was officially launched this week. And Ascendant Athlete, an advisory group that works with athletes to help them make an impact on social justice issues, will be conducting interviews with members of the Player Inclusion Committee and Youth Hockey Inclusion Committee in the coming weeks, Davis said.
The NHL is also working with the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport on a private assessment of its workforce – and the league plays a role in helping other hockey organizations make their own assessment of their ethics and inclusiveness. The NHL will assist the GTHL, the largest youth hockey organization in North America, in hosted a town hall this week in which families share their experiences in a safe space.
“That’s something we wouldn’t have seen a year ago if we hadn’t worked with them to build that muscle,” Davis said. “I think this is a very, very important part of our overarching work, not just at the competition level, which is critical, but now in the bowels of our organization, to get the sport to really fit into every sport. to change. level. That’s where we’ll see the long-term effect. “
As Davis said, the key for the NHL is not to treat the inclusion issue as a “ taste of the month. ” The boycotts in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement cannot come and go without long-term results. If the NHL goes ahead with its detailed plans for change, there is hope that we will see some real impact. There is still a long way to go, but it is a start – and a good sign that the competition is moving forward with some specific, tangible initiatives.
“Clearly, the George Floyd murder has accelerated our efforts and requires, as Gary (Bettman) says, that we be better and do better,” Davis said. “Even though we have done a lot, there is so much more to do. We were already creating the change we seek, and we are now at the point where we have leadership up and down the hockey back, but especially in our clubs and at the ownership level and president and CEO, fully invested in this. We are in a real change in the sport. “
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