An Open Letter to the NHL

As a minority, I’m embarrassed to say that I watch the NHL so closely. I’m incredibly disappointed that the NHL isn’t taking proper action to condemn police brutality. Not once has the NHL said “Black Lives Matter.” It has only been said by Matt Dumba; we’ve seen Ryan Reaves kneel; and the fact that white players and executives aren’t explicitly saying “Black Lives Matter” or that so few players are kneeling (Tyler Seguin, Jason Dickinson, Robin Lehner) is incredibly frustrating. 

The #WeSkateFor hashtag is even more annoying. It’s been used to “condemn racism” with the following text as 

  • “black lives”
  • “justice, equality and black lives”
  • “community heroes”
  • “equality”

but it’s also been used to celebrate, with the following text as: 

  • “StormSurges” from the Carolina Hurricanes
  • “TheTowel” for the Vancouver Canucks
  • “the #ALLCAPS family,” from the Washington Capitals
  • “Vegas” for the Golden Knights and its city
  • “Pittsburgh”

It’s been used to remember Colby Cave too, but there should be a separate hashtag if you truly care. Frankly, I could care less about whether each NHL team has a “WeSkateFor” message. Each team has its own personalized hashtag with the logo following suit (i.e. #Isles, with the Islanders logo after the word “Isles.” I’m not asking for a separate hashtag for the NHL to make money off of a social movement as it has with Pride. I’m asking the NHL to explicitly use “#BlackLivesMatter” instead of “#WeSkateFor Black Lives.”

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After George Floyd was killed, I didn’t expect to see so much inaction from the players after they constantly said “I was sick to my stomach.” During the protests, Logan Couture said:

“I don’t know how to properly write this message. First of all, I applaud Evander [Kane] for speaking the truth. Racism exists in society, it also exists in hockey,” Couture wrote on Twitter. “That’s a fact. Growing up in this game is a privilege. At times I think most of us have been at fault for turning a blind eye when it comes to racism. It cannot continue. I’ve had the opportunity to play with some incredible teammates. Black, white, all colours. Getting to listen to them talk about things they have gone through in hockey/life is eye opening.

As a society and as hockey players we are only scraping the surface in fixing what desperately needs fixing. Thanks to Akim [Aliu] and Evander for speaking so loudly about this issue. We all need to learn, we need to love each other regardless of skin colour.”

When Couture claimed that he got punched for saying that he would vote for Trump if he could, that threw out his words from before. He then made it worse by saying that he only wrote that out because Sportsnet asked him to do it, getting angry at Tara Slone for liking a tweet that called him out. 

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I haven’t seen Mitch Marner announce that he’s donated to Black Lives Matter. I haven’t seen it from Logan Couture. I haven’t seen it from many NHL players. And that’s why Logan Couture’s supposed apology shows that his words after George Floyd was killed didn’t mean anything, especially after his comments yesterday.

The lack of diversity in hockey shows how behind the NHL is as a major sport, and that’s largely because of its socio-economic accessibility. I believe that the NHL can be better, but that starts by actually taking action when minorities in your sport are asking for action, not listening to “John879” on Twitter who’s using Anson Carter as a shield.

Don’t use one BIPOC person as a shield for your inaction. Look at what Evander Kane, Donovan Bennett, Hemal Jhaveri, Jashvina Shah, Sonny Sachdeva and many other BIPOC are saying. “Black Girl Hockey Club” and many minorities like myself have such a low bar, and that hasn’t even been met. Take action from following what the NBA, MLS, the sport of tennis, and some of the MLB is doing. Be an ally. Watch what allies are doing and saying, from Chris Johnston, Kelly Hrudey, Jeff Veillette, Greg Wyshynski, Ryan Lambert, Thomas Drance, Sean Shapiro, Scott Burnside, and many other white media members are saying. But also, realize what many fans are saying. There are many, many white allies.

I’m a massive hockey fan because my friends are like me. We’re lucky that we grew up with each other as minorities, cheering for the Toronto Maple Leafs since our childhood. The NHL’s lack of diversity in its front offices, from scouting, management, trainers/athletic staff and more shows that we have a long way to go. Not explicitly saying “Black Lives Matter” and instead having the words “WeSkateFor Black Lives” shows that you’re okay with White Supremacy, even though you might not think that’s the case. Take a proper stance against police brutality and systemic racism. The bar is so low for the NHL, and yet it hasn’t been met. That’s truly sad.  

I’m embarrassed by the NHL, but I’m hoping that executives such as yourself take action. I’m truly hoping for your response and that we can have a conversation about how the league can improve moving forward.

I’ve emailed this letter to Steve Mayer, the NHL’s Chief Content Officer. Please share this article to demand much-needed change in the NHL.

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