NHL Must Confront Diversity Issue

Sawyer Lownsdale, Staff Reporter

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Winnipeg Jets’ defensemen, Dustin Byfuglien, skates around the ice during warmups.

 The NHL has been on a rise, as the game of hockey begins to grow in popularity in the United States. There are roughly 750 hockey players currently playing in the NHL. Of the 750, only 25 of them are black.

One of the players in the NHL’s small black community is New Jersey Devils’ defenseman PK Subban, native of Canada. In his successful NHL career, he has constantly found himself as the subject of racist remarks. After scoring a game-goal against the Boston Bruins in the 2014 playoffs, he was bombarded with racist tweets and remarks across many social media platforms.

Among these players is 30-year-old Akim Aliu, who is the only Nigerian-born player in NHL history. Aliu says he faced racism at hockey rinks as early as 12 or 13, claiming parents would sometimes even slurs at him while he played. Soon enough, slurs started coming from opposing players. Recently, Aliu accused his former coach, Bill Peters of using racial slurs toward him in 2009. Additionally, Aliu accused a minor-league equipment manager of dressing up as him (in blackface) for a team party in 2011.

The NHL, prior to Aliu’s accusations, has tried to make strides toward a more diversified league, and sport as a whole. Commissioner Gary Bettman launches the “Hockey Is For Everyone” campaign to attempt to make the game of hockey more welcoming for all people.

The NHL serves as the largest ambassador to the game of hockey, if the league wants to address it’s diversity issue, they need to make it more of a priority to reach minorities.