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Players want NHL to step up diversity and anti-racism efforts

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For too long, Matt Dumba felt himself dealing with the racial taunts directed at him as a young man growing up in Saskatchewan.

As an adult, Dumba was no exception, being one of the few minority players in the National Hockey League. Even among his fellow players, the Minnesota defense has taken one knee on the world stage to silently protest systemic racism.

Nearly two years after that iconic moment when the league resumed its pandemic-delayed playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta, Dumba has gained perspective to know he’s not alone.

“I’m the first person to say that our generation is not an easy world to live in, with all of our cell phones and social media,” Damba said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

“But at the time, racism and the treatment of people of color changed the way we looked at things. I’ll tell you.” he added. “All of us pull this rope together to make the game better.”

Dumba is a 28-year-old with a Filipino mother and a Caucasian father, as well as peers, including members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance he helped found after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020. Player. It also refers to those who have endured many of the same provocations and confronted intolerance since the dawn of hockey.

He realized this while participating in the filming of the 90-minute documentary “Black Ice,” which opens on Friday.

The film connects the past to the present by first highlighting the invasions made and struggles encountered by members of the Nova Scotia-based Colored Hockey League. Founded in the late 1800s and lasted well into the 1930s, the league is best known for introducing slap shots, allowing goalkeepers to take off their feet to save. It was largely forgotten until it was picked up in a book.

As for the present, the film chronicles first-hand experiences that reveal how hate hockey continues to influence current players, from the NHL to 16-year-old goaltender Mark Connors. at a tournament on Prince Edward Island in February.

When he saw the late Herb Carnegie break down in a television interview where Toronto Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe reportedly said he would pay $10,000 to anyone who could turn Carnegie into a white man, For Dumba, the reality he and others faced was painful. he orders him to sign.

Dumba said Smythe, whose name is on the trophy awarded to the playoff MVP each season, is “incorrect.” “People are seeing it, and people are also realizing that it’s still happening, actually in another way. This is the saddest part of all.”

The NHL is a sport struggling with issues of diversity and inclusion, and Dumba is among those who say the league is slow to adapt and grow. After being turned down by the NHL for funding two years ago, the HDA launched its own program this spring to bring hockey to Toronto’s underserved communities. Year.

“[The NHL] has been working on diversity since ’93 and doesn’t seem to know what to do,” Brooks says in the film.

Damba added: Its. ”

Hockey as a whole has been slow to diversify, but there are recent signs of progress.

Five years ago, Kim Davis, a black woman, was hired by the NHL as senior VP and has since helped create the league’s Executive Inclusion Council, which focuses on increasing diversity.

This year, the NHL asked Richard Rapczyk, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, to compile a league-wide racial and gender report card. This report sets the baseline that the league plans to use to chart a path forward to become more diversified.

Canadian national team forward Sarah Nurse doesn’t need a report card to identify how hockey needs to diversify.

“If we want to see hockey culture change, if we want to see hockey grow, the NHL needs to take diversity, anti-racism and inclusion very seriously,” said Black, whose brother said Nurse, who is an NHL defenseman. “They need to be leaders.”

She has seen her friends turn their kids to soccer and basketball instead of hockey many times.

Cost was the reason, the nurse said, but also the lack of role models for children of color.

Nurses have emerged as one of its role models. This summer, the Olympic gold medalist became the first woman to appear on the cover of an EA Sports NHL video her game, alongside her Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zeglas.

Damba grew up idolizing his mixed-race descendants Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla. He recalled having dinner a few weeks ago with his HDA colleague Nazem Kadri, his outstanding NHL forward and son of a Lebanese immigrant. A boy of color passed by and I stopped his parents and took a picture with them.

“You get a little glimpse of the impact that we’re really doing, and that’s what makes it worth it,” Damba added. “That’s why I believe we’re all doing this. It’s for the next generation, so they feel they have a voice and they’re not alone.”