NHL defends itself against criticism for not doing enough about diversity

TORONTO (AP) — NHL executive Kim Davis says the league has made progress on the diversity front in response to criticism from a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.

Former player Akim Aliu told The Canadian Press he’ss disappointed in how Davis and the league have not taken advantage of their chances, echoing comments he and current player Nazem Kadri have said about the HDA’s fractured relationship with the NHL.

“I’ve been in the business of change work in major corporations for over 40 years,” said Davis, who was hired in 2017 as executive vice president for social impact and growth initiatives. “I don’t need to be affirmed by Akim. What affirms me is progress. The point at hand is young people and growing the game. I thought that’s what (the HDA) was about, not talking about what I am or am not doing.”

Aliu said it was “extremely disappointing” and added that the league has actively tried to silence the organization that was founded in 2020.

“They essentially bring you in and buy you, in a way, to silence you,” Aliu said. “We were a group that would not be silenced.”

Davis and the NHL pushed back on that sentiment, pointing out that along with funding, there have been eight player-led initiatives since last summer, including learn-to-play clinics, ball hockey programs and mentorship sessions.

“Diversity is not a monolith,” Davis said. “Diversity has many tentacles. I honestly don’t know what the disconnect is.”

ALL-STAR LOOKBACK

NHL All-Star Weekend is back in Toronto, the site of the inaugural All-Star Game in 1947. The 3-on-3 tournament Saturday will look much different than 77 years ago — an intense, physical affair that featured 12 minor penalties, two fighting majors and a 4-3 score line as the NHL All-Stars edged the Stanley Cup champion Maple Leafs.

“The players hated each other back then,” hockey historian, author and researcher Paul Patskou said. “They never got together. They wanted to win, both the all-stars and the Stanley Cup team. There was bodychecking (and) it was really tough.”

Like several unofficial All-Star games in the years before it, the 1947 contest was a fundraiser. The newly formed players’ pension fund was a beneficiary.

The Maple Leafs hosted the game after winning the Cup the previous spring. Top players from the five other Original Six teams provided the opposition.

“You had players playing for the first time together and they were rivals,” Patskou said. “Back then, there was a genuine hate on.”

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