Hockey’s latest attempt to appeal to African/Black women.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) On October 20, 2022, sports fans were able to enjoy a “Sports Equinox”, the day when all five U.S. professional leagues of the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer overlap and deliver one grand evening of sports. It could be argued that among African/Black sports fans in the U.S. that the least popular professional sports league is the National Hockey League. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. professional sports league with the most European/white talent playing the sport is the National Hockey League. Sports is great for being able to root for people regardless of their different backgrounds but it is still important for people to have some commonality with the athletes that they root for. For the sport of hockey and its best sports league, the NHL, the history of African/Black people being welcomed into the sport has been minimal and often hostile.

Earlier this month, the NHL released its first-ever comprehensive diversity and inclusion report at its board of governors meeting. It was a 24-page report that also highlighted the large demographic inequities in the NHL. According to the report, 83.6% of employees across the NHL and its teams are white, 4.17% Asian, 3.74% Black, 3.71% Hispanic/Latino and 0.5% Indigenous, while 2.48% of employees opted not to answer. The report also found that 65.44% of interns and fellowships in the NHL are white, while 69.6% of human resources departments are white. The report found that 61.86% of workers around the NHL identify as men, with 36.81% identifying as women. Those numbers enforce the belief of the NHL being as white a professional sports league as you can find in the increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-racial U.S.

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Male sports and male sports leagues continue to dominate the national media attention but there have been small signs of women being included as media members, coaches, and even rare instances of being players. Hockey has attempted to make small strides with white women and African/Black men being included in the sport. For African/Black women interested in hockey, The Black Girl Hockey Club was founded in 2018 by R. Renee Hess to “create a community space for Black women in hockey”. Hess, an African/Black woman, is a longtime hockey fan who has taken The Black Girl Hockey Club to interesting heights. It has awarded thousands of dollars’ worth of grants to dozens of young African/Black girls all over the world and the mission of The Black Girl Hockey Club is to “inspire and sustain passion for the game of hockey within the Black community, specifically with our mothers, sisters, daughters and friends”.

Four years ago, the most popular hockey video game series in the world, the NHL series from EA Sports, had former NHL All-Star P.K. Subban has the cover athlete. He was only the second ever African/Black NHL player to be featured as the cover athlete on the popular video game series. There was another big decision made by the video game series as Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association athlete Sarah Nurse, became the first women’s hockey player to grace the cover of its EA Sports NHL video game franchise.

She’s one of two cover athletes for NHL 23, joining Anaheim Ducks player Trevor Zegras as the faces of the latest edition. Nurse is not just a gold-medal winning female hockey player, she is an African/Black hockey player with great credentials. Time will tell what her presence will do for African/Black girls and women being interested in hockey. It will be difficult to overcome the numerous stories of racism against African/Black hockey players, both male and female, in recent years that serve to show that there are major cultural issues within the game of hockey that mirror the widespread racism here and globally.

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Staff Writer; Mark Hines