The Hockey Diversity Alliance wants to “change hockey culture,” and Kevin Shattenkirk is on board. The Lightning defenseman appeared in a one-minute video the organization shared featuring people throughout the sport calling for racism to be addressed.
The video features the NFL’s Patrick Mahomes and George Kittle, in addition to NHL stars like Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Sportsnet’s Chris Simpson.
Each person has a line of the bigger message: “I support the Hockey Diversity Alliance. I stand with Akim Aliu and Evander Kane to fight racism in hockey and in society. There’s no place for racism in our sport. Let’s all do our part because sport has the power to change in our fight for equality, because representation matters.”
Sharks winger Evander Kane and Akim Aliu, who shared his experiences with racism in the minor leagues earlier this year, started the group in June “to eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey,” according to hockeydiversityalliance.org.
Shattenkirk said he has made a lot of friends of color through hockey and wants them to know he stands behind them.
“When you hear stories, I think about what they’ve gone through, certainly there are stories that I didn’t experience coming up through my hockey career,” he said. “I wouldn’t want any other child to have to go through that.”
To Shattenkirk, this game has helped mold who he is as a man, and he doesn’t want anyone to have negative experiences around that. He sees the HDA’s efforts to “bleed out anyone who has those sort of racial tendencies” and support grassroots efforts in marginalized communities as a start.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but they’re doing a great job,” he said, “and it’s definitely something that I’m standing behind and hoping to be involved with going forward.”
Before the Avalanche and Wild’s exhibition game, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri stood with teammate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare as well as the Wild’s Matt Dumba and Jordan Greenway (Kadri and Dumba are founding members of HDA). They had arms on each other’s shoulders, with space between them and the next players.
Kadri said after the exhibition game that he’d like to see more support from the league. Kane said the same to TSN’s Frank Seravalli
“No matter what they do or say, it’s all going to fall on deaf ears with me and every other person in the HDA,” Kane said in a story published Thursday, “because the league has made no effort to support its own Black players.”
The league announced it will kick off a #WeSkateFor initiative to “support, celebrate and honor community heroes, front-line and healthcare workers, and racial justice activists through various local and national programs and activities.”
Kane told TSN the campaign misses the mark by piling everything in together when the HDA is trying to focus on racism. According to Seravalli, discussions between the HDA and NHL continued and they came up with something before the Blackhawks and Oilers in Edmonton.
Dumba stepped out to center ice, surrounded by players from both teams, and spoke on racism in society and in hockey.
“Racism is a man-made creation and all it does is deteriorate from our collective prosperity,” Dumba said. “Racism is everywhere. Racism is everywhere — and we need to fight against it.
“The Hockey Diversity Alliance and NHL want kids to feel safe, comfortable and free-minded everytime they enter an arena. I stand in front of you today, on behalf of those groups,and promise you that we will fight against injustice and fight for what is right.”
Dumba took a knee for the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone else stood around the center circle. Blackhawks goalie Malcolm Subban and Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse, both of whom are Black, each put a hand on Dumba’s shoulder.
Previously, each of the 12 exhibition games started with the players standing arm-in-arm alternating by team, as a show of unity during the national anthem.
Some fans drew a comparison from that to other sports in which players have taken a knee. #Kneel4hockey trended on Twitter on Friday as fans posted photos of themselves in jerseys and team T-shirts saying variations of, “If the NHL won’t, I will.”