Georges Laraque was seven years old playing pee wee when he first experienced racism in the sport. He would hear constant racial slurs from both the players and the parents. “If you didn’t know me you would think [the N-word] was my actual name.”, says Laraque in a Sportsnet interview. However, even with the adversity that he faced, being the son of Haitian immigrants, he still made it to the NHL and had a dominant career with the Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Joel Ward scored the series winning goal against the Boston Bruins in 2012, allowing the Washington Capitals to move on in the playoffs. Shortly thereafter, tweets from various Bruins fans spewed out racially insensitive comments at the forward. Even with that, Ward went on to continue his excellent career between the Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, and San Jose Sharks.
Akim Aliu was 16 years old when he refused to strip naked for a team hazing ritual done by the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. His refusal lead to teammate, Steve Downie, hitting Aliu with a hockey stick repeatedly, and knocking out seven teeth. When Aliu was in the American Hockey League, then Rockford Ice Hogs coach, Bill Peters, used a racial slur to refer to the Nigerian immigrant. Although he played most of his games in the minors, Aliu did have a brief stint with the Calgary Flames.
After P.K. Subban recorded a game-winning double overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in 2014, thousands of tweets verbally abused the Montreal Canadiens defenseman. Even with the remarks, Subban humbly tweeted, “What people may say on Twitter or social media is not a reflection by any means of the league or the Boston Bruins. So whoever that is, they’ll get dealt with, but it’s completely separate from this league or the Boston Bruins organization. I know some of those players personally on that team, like I said, the fan base has been awesome, they are a great bunch of fans.” Subban continues to shine in the NHL, and has been an amazing asset to the Canadiens, Nahville Predators, and New Jersey Devils.
These accounts of racism throughout the sport are only the tip of the ice berg; and it is extremely important to realize, especially today, to see the problem, reflect, listen, and to change.
Now, as protesters speak out for change and equality, we must all stand up and raise our voices with them, to not only stop racism throughout the police force and the government, but to stop racism everywhere. Racism is a problem, it always has been; and the fact that people aren’t listening, aren’t speaking, aren’t acknowledging is horrific.
Today, current and former black hockey players have created the Hockey Diversity Alliance. The goal is to get rid of racism throughout the entire sport, and to educate players, parents, and coaches from the minor and major hockey ranks. However, in order to create even more change, not only do black players have to stand up, but even more than that, white players need to stand up; because in order to generate true change and to create a positive atmosphere for the black community, white people need to understand there faults and be more inclusive. They need to talk about what is happening, even if it means getting out of their comfort zones.
This is a tough challenge to beat, but many are here to help. With the world finally watching and listening, people finally realize that black lives truly matter.