“We know that important and significant work remains to be done at the N.H.L. level and throughout hockey to ensure that our game lives up to the ideals that are truly essential to it,” the league said in a statement responding to Aliu’s article.
In January, a defenseman in a development league, Brandon Manning, was suspended for using a racial slur during a game. Three months later, a Rangers prospect, K’Andre Miller, was subjected to racist slurs during a Zoom call with fans. In early May, the N.H.L. publicly reprimanded two players, Washington Capitals forward Brendan Leipsic and the Florida Panthers prospect Jack Rodewald, for racist and misogynistic comments on their social media accounts.
Stung by these and other instances of racism, the N.H.L. has tried to promote diversity in recent years, but the number of black players remains relatively small. The first black player in the N.H.L., Willie O’Ree, didn’t take the ice until 1957, and since then, only about 100 black players have dressed for at least one game in the league. At least 30 black players have been on teams since the 2016-17 season, when a record four black players were named All-Stars. Still, only a handful of team captains has been black and there are no black head coaches in the N.H.L.
A major goal of the Hockey Diversity Alliance will be mentorship, giving younger players who are members of minority groups a chance to learn from the likes of Kane and Aliu.
“We feel that we can be a great outlet for minority players all the way down to youth hockey coming up through the junior ranks and coming into pro with any issues they might be going through, whether that’s race-related or anything else,” Kane said. “I think having a group like us to lean on for experience, advice, thoughts or different ideas will empower them.”
Aliu and Kane said they felt emboldened after talking to Kaepernick.
“It’s enabled us to really feel even more strongly than we did originally about what we’re doing,” Kane said. “It was an invaluable call that we had with him.”
Kaepernick declined to comment.
“Our mission and goal is to make the game as diverse and inclusive as possible,” Aliu said. “It’s so that someone from any type of background, whether it’s economical, race, gender, gets to feel included in our game and feel like they’re wanted.”