Players share painful past in campaign to rid NHL of racism

nhl racism
Paul Bolasco/Budweiser Canada via AP

Akim Aliu recalled how no one knew what to expect when he and four NHL players of color sat in a circle inside a dimly lit locker room and, with cameras rolling, were asked to share their most personal and painful experiences involving racism.

“Everyone was really worried — because, obviously, we’re not actors or anything and with the really raw material — that we would run out of things to talk about,” Aliu said.

Instead, a film shoot initially expected to last no more than half an hour was approaching 90 minutes when the director finally said cut.

The stories were told by Aliu, Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, Colorado’s Nazem Kadri, Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds and Florida’s Anthony Duclair, members of the recently formed Hockey Diversity Alliance. The exchange proved so powerful it became the focal point of a two-minute video that debuted Saturday to launch an HDA campaign to eradicate racism in hockey.

Sponsored by Budweiser Canada, an edited version of the video (to meet broadcast standards for language and content) will be used in a commercial aired in Canada to promote the TapeOutHate campaign. An unfiltered version will be posted on social media.

As part of the campaign, rolls of black hockey tape with messages of support and solidarity printed on them will be made available for purchase with $1 from each sale going toward the HDA.

The alliance was formed by current and former NHL players of color in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May 2020. This campaign represents its next step in raising awareness of racism in hockey, while at the same time seeking to make the predominantly white sport more accessible to minorities.

Dumba found the discussion empowering. With his mother Filipino, he was the target of racial slurs growing up in Saskatchewan because he has darker skin.

“I think it’s standing up for our younger selves, you know, the 10, 11, 12-year-old Matt Dumba, knowing how confused he was by all of it, and how hurt he was at a time,” said Dumba, the first NHL player to take a knee in protest of Floyd’s death. “Every guy in our group, you start talking about some of the stuff you lived, and it’s bringing out more stuff that you just had buried for so long.”

It’s also a message Dumba wanted to share with those dealing with similar experiences: to know they are not alone.

“It’s disheartening that kids are having to go through this and feel that sense of loneliness and not know where to fit,” Dumba said. “I hope it is a beacon of hope for the younger generation.”

Racism isn’t new to the NHL. What’s changed are those within the game willing to speak out.

The cultural shift began in November 2019, when Aliu posted a series of tweets accusing his former minor league coach, Bill Peters, of directing racial slurs at him a decade earlier. The allegations proved true, leading to Peters resigning as coach of the Calgary Flames.

“Racism, ignorance, hate, it has no place in our game,” Dumba says in opening the video. What follows in the unfiltered version is a disclaimer and then actual slurs HDA players have endured on social media, text and direct messages from so-called fans.

During the locker room discussion, Dumba questions why any of them would want their child to play hockey. Simmonds responds by referring to his daughter: “If I knew she was going to have to face the same stuff I faced, probably not.”

A 14-year NHL veteran, Simmonds was entering his third season with Los Angeles in 2011 when someone threw a banana on the ice during an exhibition game in London, Ontario. The man was fined $200.

Budweiser Canada approached the HDA a year ago with its vision of the ad, with an emphasis on sending a strong message.

“We believe that we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s ultimately how we grow, learn, change and evolve,” Budweiser Canada senior director Mike D’Agostini said.

“The intent of this campaign is not Budweiser gaining. I think it’s about our partnership, really about the HDA gaining and the hockey world getting to a better place is the goal of this,” he added. “We hear those stories, we hear the struggle that the best players at the professional level are going through, and we want to be on the right side of the conversation and change.”

Aliu helped oversee the project, and the former NHL player said he would never have teamed with any sponsor with an intent to water down the message.

“We were never going to sugarcoat anything and never do anything that’s performative,” Aliu said. “To be completely honest, they’ve kept their word from Day 1.”

What’s disappointing to HDA members is the NHL declining an invitation to be involved.

Dumba questioned the league’s lack of interest by noting the campaign’s potential to broaden hockey’s base.

“That hurts. I guess it further shows where their heart lies on these issues. That’s a tough pill to swallow for us, for our group, for a lot of people trying to promote change in our game,” Dumba said. “They could have a huge hand in that and I just haven’t seen it yet.”

The NHL, however, said it is supportive of the campaign, and intends to promote the video on its various platforms.

“The NHL applauds our partner Budweiser and the Hockey Diversity Alliance for their efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in the sport of hockey,” the NHL said in a statement released to The Associated Press.

“This ongoing movement requires vision and commitment from every stakeholder in hockey,” the statement read. “We welcome all who are using their voices and platforms to pursue these important goals and remain determined to continue to use ours and to do the work necessary to create real change.”

The league, which a year ago announced an effort to speed up inclusion efforts in the NHL, partnered with Scotiabank in October in launching a video promoting diversity titled “Hockey for All.”

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.