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NHL has a place to start with demographics

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NEW YORK (AP) — Kim Davis, a black woman hired five years ago to support the NHL’s diversity initiative, wasn’t surprised by much of the league’s first workplace demographic survey.

“We’re where we expected to be, and now we have the facts to back it up,” Davis said.

The data supports expectations, with nearly 84% of employees in the league and its 32 teams being white and nearly 62% being male. A 24-page report to the board – the biggest topic discussed at the annual fall meeting – also lays out the NHL’s direction for the future.

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The NHL has received much criticism for its slow response by its diversity department. Now, with independent race and gender report cards being created and baselines being set, observers are hopeful to see signs of progress. make a plan.

“If the NHL can diversify its workforce and audience, it will ensure the league survives and thrives,” said Micah Thompson, vice president of the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and an expert on racial diversity issues. I can,” he said. .

“It’s right to pursue diversity and inclusion, but it’s also good for the league’s bottom line,” Thompson added. The NHL’s fan base will grow if more diverse people are represented in the league. ”

Representation at all levels is important, not just players, coaches and executives of hockey operations, Davis said. In San Jose, there have been developments in his front office, including the appointment of Mike Greer as the first black general manager and the appointment of six women as assistant GMs.

But it’s not as easy as hiring people of color. In particular, the NFL and NBA have established talent pipelines in the non-white community, while the NHL is still building its pipeline.

“We will improve our brand in these communities and make sure there is a sense of welcome in all aspects,” Davis said. , executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs for the NHL. “All of these are factors that influence this comprehensive way of guiding movement in the sport.”

It could be decades, perhaps a generation or more, before there is significant visible evidence that hockey is truly diversifying. As such, Davis said the NHL plans to conduct a demographic survey every two years to chart his progress.

It will also submit data to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida to produce the NHL’s first race and gender report card. The NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball have each been involved for at least ten years.

Not everyone is convinced by the NHL’s internal reports.

Former Nigerian-born player Akim Aliu sped through several diversity projects in 2019 after his coach was caught using racist language when he was underage. He and Hockey His Diversity His Alliance members color years in the way the NHL wants the game to grow.

“Nobody holds them accountable,” Aliu said. “None of us will be until we are all successful and progressing.”

Ketra Armstrong, director of the Center for Race and Ethnicity in Sport at the University of Michigan, agrees with Aliu and others who have called much of the NHL’s work to date largely action-oriented. But she believes the league’s focus on seven topics – leadership, education, hiring, marketing, partnerships, participation and community engagement – has the opportunity to create real change.

“All of this conveys an overarching message that this league is honest and authentic in its efforts to become more diverse and more culturally inclusive,” said Armstrong. , it requires many kinds of things.”

Like Armstrong, Thompson said he should be optimistic about hockey becoming more diverse, and they agree that demographic surveys are a strong first step in demonstrating true intent. Armstrong suggested that the NHL also “celebrate small victories along the way” as the process can be lengthy.

“You have to put in effort and energy and patience,” she said. “Often people are trying to undo years of injustice, exclusion and modernization with a special program or two. They have to be there for the long haul.”