Akim Aliu and his fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance say they feel betrayed and confused by the NHL’s decision to launch — or as far as the HDA is concerned, to relaunch — an inclusion committee to diversify the sport and make hockey more welcoming.
What happened, Aliu wondered, to the league announcing a partnership with the HDA to solve the same problems three years ago? And why, asked the HDA in a scathing statement On Wednesday, is the NHL essentially replicating what it’s done funneling millions of dollars into grassroots programs and bringing hockey to at-risk youth in underserved communities of color?
“Like the NHL has done so many times, they’re late to the party and they always want to show that they want to be involved in the dance,” said Aliu, a veteran who played in a handful of league games. the NHL. Associated Press. “It’s their way of showing that it’s their biggest and best thing. But I think everyone inside hockey knows what’s really going on and really knows it’s just another facade.
Aliu’s comments reflect the statement he, seven current and former NHL players and HDA support staff and sponsors have signed after lengthy discussions since the league unveiled its inclusion committee last week. . HDA members include Matt Dumba, Anthony Duclair and Wayne Simmonds.
“It’s a disappointment, but no surprise that the NHL has announced the formation of a ‘Player Inclusion Coalition,'” the HDA statement read. “…Laudable on the face of it, laughable in the context of the work we’ve been doing for three years without league support. The mission statement of the NHL Players’ Coalition doesn’t so much echo the goals of the HDA that he is cynically trying to appropriate them.”
Hockey Diversity Alliance releases statement in response to the Player Inclusion Coalition’s NHL/NHLPA announcement. pic.twitter.com/pzhUXdMkXr
— Hockey Diversity Alliance (@TheOfficialHDA) July 5, 2023
The NHL and the NHL Players Association announced the formation of a 20-player committee of current and former players and earmarked $1 million to support grassroots organizations, player perspective storytelling and other special projects. Chaired by former NHL players Anson Carter and PK Subban, the NHL notes that the coalition was formed in 2020, without mentioning the HDA, which was specifically referenced in a similar announcement made in September of that year.
NHL spokesman Brad Klein said the league would have no comment on the HDA’s statement. NHLPA spokesman Andrew Wolfe said the union also declined to comment.
In accusing the NHL of having little to show for what its board has done since 2020, the HDA pointed to the inroads it has made in partnering with corporate sponsors to establish ball hockey and hockey programs. on ice in the Toronto area last year.
“Basically, I think we have a very, very strong structure and foundation in place,” Nazem Kadri, HDA founder and Calgary Flames center, told the AP. “We did this without the league. I don’t think they would have necessarily expected us to get to this trajectory on our own, but when you have a group of guys who are really passionate and really care of the cause, not necessarily just the media attention it’s going to get, you can take it to the next level and we can really impact minority communities.”
Aliu predicted that these programs – in which equipment, training, transportation and meals are provided free of charge – will soon expand across Canada and eventually the United States.
“Next year we will help over a thousand children to play between ice hockey and ball hockey. We are a multi-million dollar operation and we do not benefit from a penny of the work we do” , Aliu said.
Aliu, the HDA president, was born in Nigeria and spent part of his childhood in Ukraine before moving to Toronto with his family. He is a former minor league journeyman who appeared in seven NHL games and in November 2019 revealed that then-Flames coach Bill Peters bullied him and called him names. racial slurs when the two were underage a decade earlier. Peters resigned days later, and Aliu’s revelations led the NHL to institute a personal conduct policy in an effort to stamp out racism in what had traditionally been a white-dominated sport.
Aliu said he believes the rift between the HDA and the NHL stems from the alliance members not being afraid to speak out and challenge the league to action. Kadri expressed disappointment that the NHL and HDA were unable to work together, but added that he and his fellow current and former players remained committed to advancing their cause.
“We thought it would have been a great partnership and we would have helped each other and taken this to the next level with something that was really close to our hearts,” Kadri said. “It would have been nice to have their support. In the end, we didn’t need it.”
The statement was aimed at the NHL choosing autonomy over a partnership with the HDA: “Metaphorically, the first instinct of owners is to own rather than be part of a team.”
Aliu said the HDA’s criticism was directed at the league and not at members of the inclusion coalition.
“I really hope they do a good job this time around, but I’m tired of hearing empty ads and photo ops to tick a box instead of doing the hard work,” Aliu said. . “My only message is don’t let the league use you because that’s really what’s going to block our movement.”