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CCM Hockey joins Akim Aliu to promote inclusion, diversity

MONTREAL — CCM Hockey is partnering with former NHL player Akim Aliu to promote diversity and inclusion, while making it easier for disadvantaged children enter the sport.

The Montreal-based hockey equipment and apparel maker on Tuesday announced it reached an endorsement agreement with Aliu, who is co-chairman of the newly formed Hockey Diversity Alliance and founder of the Time to Dream Foundation.

Aliu came to prominence as a voice against racism and intolerance in hockey in November when revealing Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters directed racial slurs at him while the two were in the minors a decade earlier. Peters resigned days later, and Aliu’s comments led to the NHL strengthening its personal conduct policies regarding racism and bullying.

CCM will make a financial contribution and donate 750 of what it calls ”starter kits,” which will include necessary equipment for children to play hockey. Aliu will be involved as a mentor and coach.

”The sport of hockey is a mindset, not a demographic,” CCM CEO Rick Blackshaw said in a statement. ”Hockey is an attitude, not an age. Hockey is a leader, not a gender or race.”

Said Aliu: ”I’m grateful for their commitment to bring about true and meaningful change that the game of hockey and society desperately need.”

Alexei Kovalev named head coach of KHL’s Kunlun Red Star

Kunlun Red Star of the KHL has a new head coach and his name is Alexei Kovalev.

The former NHLer has taken over the head coaching duties after two years as an assistant with the Beijing-based franchise. The 47-year-old Kovalev, who played 1,316 NHL games with five teams, is the fifth coach in team history — a history that only began with the 2016-17 KHL season.

When asked by Gillian Kemmerer about his way of motivating players, Kovalev pointed out a few main factors.

“[F]irst of all, I ask myself if this is the type of guy I would have played with, if I was still a player. I am experienced enough playing hockey all my career, and I’ve had a lot of coaches—so I have enough information on how to match players. But most importantly, you have to understand the player. You have to play around his skills. There’s no time for switching him over, or teaching him things. Of course the teaching process is still going to happen, but you’re not going to have time to say, ‘You’ve got to try to do this.’ Things he has not really done before.

“At the same time, it’s a lot of teaching guys how to play together as a unit. And I’m probably going to try to keep the guys on the same lines as much as possible. Most importantly, you need to understand the player, see his potential, figure out what he is capable of and use him in the right spot. If you use a player in the right spot and let him open up to his potential, then the player’s only going to get better.”

Kunlun has not made the playoffs since their first year of existence. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic they will play their home games in Russia this coming season.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

‘Race and Sports in America: Conversations’ special covers race, combating inequality

Monday at 8 p.m. ET, celebrity athletes – including two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry and Basketball Hall-of-Famer and TNT NBA analyst Charles Barkley – will be featured on Race and Sports in America: Conversations, a wide-ranging roundtable discussion special that will simulcast on GOLF Channel, NBCSN, NBC Sports Regional Networks and the Olympic Channel.

Hosted by Damon Hack, and filmed Thursday at the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, the primetime special will focus on topics ranging from social justice, locker room conversations about race, and ways that sports can help combat inequality. Additional subjects will include the relationship between athletes and law enforcement, reaction to George Floyd’s death and reflections on personal experiences in the weeks since, and thoughts on what the conversations should be a year from now.

Additional athletes joining Curry and Barkley on “Race and Sports in America” include:
• James Blake – 10-time ATP tennis champion
• Troy Mullins – World Long Drive competitor
• Anthony Lynn – Los Angeles Chargers head coach
• Jimmy Rollins – World Series champion shortstop
• Kyle Rudolph – Minnesota Vikings tight end
• Ozzie Smith – Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer

Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Jerome Bettis also sat down with Damon Hack for an extended one-on-one interview that will be available on NBC Sports’ digital and podcast platforms in conjunction with the television airing.

Race and Sports in America: Conversations airs Mon., July 13 on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel at 8 p.m. ET.

Seven hockey players suspended in Belarus match-fixing case

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ZURICH — Seven ice hockey players have been suspended during an investigation into match-fixing in the Belarus league.

The players — five from Belarus and two from Russia — told a domestic investigation they were paid to help arrange the outcome of a game in November, the International Ice Hockey Federation said on Friday.

“During the investigation, each of the players also admitted that they had agreed to exert an unlawful influence on the outcome of the game in exchange for illegal remuneration,” the governing body said in a statement.

The IIHF said its disciplinary board had taken over the case “for further review and sanctioning.”

The case involves Dynamo Molodechno’ losing to Mogilyov 6-5 in a Belarus Extraliga game.

The players have been suspended from taking part in any competition organized by the IIHF or its member federations.

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class: Iginla, Hossa, Wilson, St-Pierre, Lowe, Holland

2020 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Iginla Lowe St-Pierre Wilson Hossa
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The Hockey Hall of Fame announced its 2020 class of inductees on Wednesday. The 2020 Hockey Hall of Fame class includes: Jarome Iginla, Marian Hossa, Kevin Lowe, Doug Wilson, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland.

Yes, this means that both Iginla and Hossa are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Kim St-Pierre represents the sole woman inducted in this class (as many as two can be added each go-around), while Holland is being inducted under the “builder” category.

Inevitably, people will discuss snubs. Many will point to Daniel Alfredsson and Alexander Mogilny. There are plenty of women who are deserving, too, including Jennifer Botterill.

Both Iginla and Hossa make Hockey Hall of Fame on first (2020) ballot

No surprise with Jarome Iginla

Iginla spent 1,219 of his 1,554 NHL games as a member of the Flames. After breaking into the league in 1996, “Iggy” went on to score 625 goals, record 1,300 points, win two Rocket Richard Trophies, the King Clancy, the Art Ross, and the Ted Lindsay Award. The winger was a six-time All-Star.

Iginla managed two 50-goal seasons, and passed the 40-goal mark on four occasions. The power forward also distinguished himself before reaching the NHL, winning two Memorial Cups with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers. On the international scene, he represented Canada at various levels, winning two World Junior Championships, one World Championship, one World Cup of Hockey, and two Olympic gold medals. Iginla set up Sidney Crosby‘s “golden goal” in overtime during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Marian Hossa recognized as a two-way star

Hossa joins Iginla as a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Famer.

Hossa won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, and was a playoff fixture, becoming the first NHL player to reach three consecutive Stanley Cup Final series with three different teams. So you might also consider his playoff production (149 points in 205 games) while noting his regular season accolades (525 goals and 1,134 points in 1,309 contests).

Hossa represented Slovakia at the World Championships eight times, Olympic Games four times, and played in two World Cup of Hockey tournaments — once for his home country and the other for Team Europe. In addition to those Stanley Cup victories, Hossa also won a Memorial Cup.

One knock against Hossa was a lack of individual awards, but success followed the two-way star.

[MORE: Who the PHT staff would have inducted into the 2020 HHOF]

Kim St-Pierre adds another deserving woman to HHOF

There are a lot of gold medals in St-Pierre’s trophy case.

Inside you’ll find three from the Olympics, five from the World Championships, and one from the Four Nations Cup. The netminder played 83 times for Canada, helping them win 64 times with 29 shutouts. She earned best goalie honors at the 2002 Olympics, as well World Championships in 2001 and 2004. St-Pierre also won the Clarkson Cup twice with Montreal Stars of the CWHL, and was named the league’s top goaltender two seasons in a row.

Wilson and Lowe get into Hockey Hall of Fame after long waits

Doug Wilson an easy case

Wilson scored 237 goals, 827 points as a defenseman, winning the 1982 Norris Trophy during his impressive and underrated career.

The current Sharks GM was an eight-time All-Star, and won Canada Cup gold. His name has sprung up in Hall of Fame discussions over the last few years, even after having been on the ballot for over two decades. He played during an era dominated by Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, but examine his career and it was a pretty solid one. He finished his career in the top 20 in points by a defenseman and top 10 in points per game.

[MORE: Hall of Fame waits for Lowe, Wilson come to an end]

A fun piece of trivia via Sean McIndoe of The Athletic (sub required) that bolsters his case: “Here’s the complete list of players who both won a Norris Trophy (peak) and finished in the top 25 all-time in defenseman scoring (longevity), but haven’t been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame: Doug Wilson, and that’s it.”

As a side note, Wilson is putting together a decent Hockey Hall of Fame case with his GM work, alone.

Kevin Lowe’s best case — his trophy case

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson laid out defensive defenseman Kevin Lowe’s Hall of Fame case: he was the “conscience” of the Gretzky-era Oilers. Overall, Lowe won five Stanley Cups with Edmonton, and then one more with the Rangers.

“You look at Kevin’s Stanley Cups, the leadership on our team, the respect of all the players … that certainly would give me all sorts of statistical and psychological information to be in the Hall,” Glen Sather said. “You don’t have to pile up points to be a great player.

Lowe’s offensive stats won’t impress, but people stumped for his responsible game. It finally worked.

Lowe also served as a “builder” with the Oilers. Many would agree that it’s probably not the first point you’d argue for when saying Lowe deserved to be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, though.

Ken Holland rounds out 2020 Hall of Fame class as a builder

The timing felt a bit surprising for Holland to be inducted as a builder. But, in the grand scheme of things, it was probably a matter of time.

The Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups with Holland in prominent positions (one as assistant GM, three as GM). The Red Wings also won 10 Central Division titles with Holland at the helm, not to mention four Presidents’ Trophies.

Holland can still add to his resume if he can bring Connor McDavid and the Oilers to additional glories, too.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.