The NHL continues its diversity efforts during All-Star celebrations

Kim Davis has seen a change in hockey since growing up in Chicago. Back then, she said, the sport didn’t seem like a place for black girls like her.

“There were no intentional messages saying the sport is for me or for us,” said Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth and regulatory affairs.

That’s slowly changing, Davis said.

She was hired in 2017 to lead diversity and inclusion initiatives at a league that has been criticized for its efforts in these areas. As the NHL prepares for its All-Star Celebration in South Florida, its attempts to increase diversity continue to draw attention that’s not entirely positive.

Some have questioned the NHL’s commitment to change, and others have opposed some of its diversity efforts. Davis said the league hopes to combat criticism by holding itself accountable and “proving people wrong.”

“We don’t mind tough questions being asked,” Davis said, “as long as the assessment is fair.”

Mobile museum

As the start of Black History Month coincided with the All-Star events, the NHL unveiled a mobile museum highlighting minority and underrepresented contributors to the game by Angela James, the first black woman inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame , to Kevin Weekes, the former NHL goaltender who became the first black former player to become a national television hockey analyst.

“Inclusion is key because you can be diverse, but if you’re not inclusive, what’s the point of having diversity?” said Jeff Scott, NHL vice president of community development and growth, who helped found the museum. “What we’re showing here with this experience is the display of access and opportunity.”

Scott, who is black, said hockey didn’t seem like an option for him growing up. The museum, set up on a bus the league plans to take to all 32 NHL markets, aims to break down some of the same barriers to entry to the sport that existed in its youth.

“Had I known there was an option or there were people out there who looked like me,” Scott said, “I might have been more inclined to do it.”

The league released an internal demographic study of its employees and 32 teams in October. The report found that the NHL’s workforce is 83.6 percent white, with men making up 62 percent of the total, based on the 4,200 people who took part in a voluntary and anonymous survey (about 67 percent of all employees). More than 90 percent of the league’s players and nearly all coaches and officials are white.

Davis said the league plans to update the survey every two years to mark its progress.

“We knew our demographics would be controversial at best,” Davis said, “but we wanted to be transparent because we hold ourselves accountable for the change first and foremost.”

By the time the next report is released, Davis hopes both fans and staff will feel more welcome from the league.

“The word I like to use is intentionality,” Davis said. “We want to make sure that people who otherwise didn’t see hockey as something accessible to them see it as accessible.”

Pathway to Hockey Summit

One such avenue is through the NHL’s Pathway to Hockey Summit, which encourages newcomers to learn about hockey and consider careers in the NHL by sharing the stories of people who work for the league.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and potential presidential candidate, criticized the league’s original promotion of the summit, calling it discriminatory. The ad noted that participants must identify as Female, Black, Asian/Pacific, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, and/or disabled.

“We do not subscribe to the awakened notion that discrimination should be overlooked when used in a politically popular manner or against a politically unpopular demographic,” DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin said in a statement. “We fight all discrimination in our schools and in our workplaces, and we will fight it in places of gathering or activity open to the public. We call on the National Hockey League to immediately lift and denounce the discriminatory bans it has placed on attending the 2023 Pathway to Hockey Summit.”

The NHL, after revising the post, held the summit as planned in Fort Lauderdale with more than 120 in attendance, Davis said. She estimated the average age of the participants at 25 years.

Just five years ago, Davis added, the league probably wouldn’t have been able to attract a diverse pool of people in that age group.

“Often when you’re not visible, you’re not there,” Scott said. “We as a league are very focused on what the future and growth of our game is, while maintaining and nurturing our current fan base.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *