Think of a job interview, and when someone asks you about yourself, you’re typically going to talk about your positive traits. You’ll highlight your successes and your qualities that people love about you.
When it comes to hockey, Minnesota Hockey loves to celebrate and highlight our successes. In particular, we are quick to point out large registration numbers or the success of Minnesotans at the top levels of college, international and pro hockey. We will gladly share the successes of this community based model and all the great things that come with it.
Do we highlight the negatives? No, we don’t. Nobody wants to talk about their own problems and reveal uncomfortable truths.
There are always areas that we can improve, but one of the topics that doesn’t get talked about enough is diversity in our sport, and in particular, racism. We may want to think we are doing a good job in growing the sport for people of color. And we may want to pretend that racism rarely, if ever, happens in youth hockey, other than a few “isolated” incidents.
Both statements would be false.
We have put a focus on growing the game among more diverse groups, especially over the past year. And in doing so, we’ve faced some hard truths. In a meeting with 12 parents and players of color last summer to better understand their experiences in hockey, all said they have experienced racism during their time in Minnesota Hockey.
Following the horrific killing of George Floyd in May, K’Andre Miller, a black Minnesotan destined for the NHL acknowledged on Twitter that he’s experienced racism at every level of hockey, including youth hockey. While disappointing to hear, it was not surprising.
In a conversation with USA Hockey’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Stephanie Jackson, in which we told her that our goal is to get more people of color into the game, she asked a very upfront question. “Why would they want to come into the game if every player that does so, experiences racism?”
There is no good answer for that. Too often, players who experience racism are not believed (“nobody else heard the kid say it so we can’t penalize him or her.”) or are expected to brush it off (“hey, trash talk is part of the game and it never bothered me when I played.”)
While racism, and specifically systemic racism, is a societal problem, it is also a problem in hockey, and we have to be better. Minnesota Hockey has a zero tolerance policy toward racism, but what does that mean?
We need to define what it means. We need to engage in conversations with those that are affected by it. We need to make sure that they are heard, and we aren’t just going to listen and move onto the next thing. We need to speak out against it, and address any and all incidents that arise. The days of hoping the issues go away and things magically improve are over. We have to make it better.
How we do this is the important question. And what actions do we take? It will start with inviting any and all of those who want to be a part of the solution to come forward and have dialogue with us. We will provide a platform for you, and we will commit to addressing the issues head on.
This will be our focus. We will be working with Stephanie Jackson at USA Hockey starting with a roundtable discussion open to all members on Monday, July 13, as well as continuing to engage our diversity group that first came together in July of 2019.
Minnesota Hockey has to do our part for current families and our future families. It has to become an issue that we are proud to say we are working to improve, rather than one we ignore.
Minnesota Hockey President
Minnesota Hockey Executive Director