Evander Kane’s entire NHL career has led up to this moment.
Since debuting in 2009, Kane has strived to promote hockey in diverse, underserved communities in an attempt to broaden its inclusivity. Other visible minority players have done the same, waiting for the cause to go mainstream. Now, they are done waiting.
“We don’t want to wait for something to happen because, to be honest, I’ve been waiting for 11 years,” Kane told reporters on a call Tuesday. “I’m fed up. Because the narrative has always been controlled by the upper echelon.
“I think this is a great opportunity for us to create our own narrative and (change) the way people think and the culture of our sport.”
The “great opportunity” Kane referenced is the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group formed Monday to promote diversity and eradicate racism in hockey. Kane and Akim Aliu are serving as co-heads, while Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart and Joel Ward round out the executive committee.
The genesis of the alliance came in late November, when Aliu first went public about his experience as a target of racial slurs from coach Bill Peters during their time together in the AHL.
Kane said a group of more than a dozen players was getting on the phone with each other to discuss how they wanted to take action. Those conversations tapered off, but they were revived in late May — after Aliu published his “Hockey Is Not for Everyone” story on The Players’ Tribune and the death of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests about racial injustice.
At that point, it was clear that players had to turn their words into actions. As Kane said, “We felt that we could no longer just talk about them. We had to do something about them.”
To achieve its overarching goals, the Hockey Diversity Alliance plans to create opportunities for youth hockey players that might not otherwise have an opportunity to play or even learn about the sport.
White athletes have always dominated the hockey landscape, even in communities where whites aren’t the majority.
Among the NHL’s 24 U.S. franchises, 10 are located in metro areas with minority white populations, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal. Yet in the 2018-19 season, there were only 50 non-white players in the NHL.
In Kane’s announcement of the alliance on Monday, one line sticks out to emphasize the group’s ambition: “We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background and will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution.”
We are proud to announce the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance pic.twitter.com/Z5g6BP2b4f
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) June 8, 2020
Kane said he and other alliance members have received support from players around the league, in a response he described as “overwhelming.” They haven’t spoken with the NHL about working together, but Kane is “hopeful and keen” that that conversation will happen in the coming weeks.
Things are moving quickly, but not that quickly. After all, it’s only Day 2. The alliance’s website should be up in the next 10 days, Kane said, and the paperwork has already been filed to officialize the group’s charitable arm.
Kane hopes and expects to work with the league, but he made it clear the alliance will operate independently. It’s a group determined to enact real change — rather than wait on others to take up their cause.
“We are empowering ourselves to have control over what we have set up to do,” Kane said. “We don’t want this to be something that just looks good or is a box that’s checked off. We want to clearly establish new policies throughout hockey, at all levels.
“We want to help create a more diverse game, more diverse fan base and have everyone feel comfortable in their own skin when it comes to our game.”