Around the League

Hockey culture needs to change

Hockey is not for everyone

Hockey is not for everyone.

These were the words from Akim Aliu, who opened up about his experiences as a black hockey player. The article, open for everyone to read, is a damning account of hockey culture, racism, and bigotry. Hockey needs to be better. Hockey needs to weed out the racists. But the problem goes beyond just a few racist players and a few experiences.

Hockey culture is toxic, a word you will read regularly throughout this post. Aliu’s story of racist teammates, racist fans, racist locker rooms, and racist coaches sheds light on just how toxic it truly is, and how players can be black balled by speaking out. The fact that only three NHL players, as of the writing of this post, came out in support of Aliu shows how toxic the culture is and the power that some in the league have.

It honestly isn’t that hard to speak out either. A tweet may not necessarily do anything tangible, but it at least continues to draw attention to the toxic problem in the league. Yet the stars in the league, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Henrik Lundqvist, and the many that the NHL markets as stars on their nightly shows, have been silent. Some after repeated pushing for a statement.

It doesn’t matter that none of them played with Aliu. This is an issue in hockey and in life. That fact that we are STILL having these conversations in 2020 just illustrates how desperately we need players to speak out and start changing that toxic culture. Yet all we have are players subtweeting cryptic remarks:

The culture is ingrained in hockey. It was put there by the “200 Hockey Men” that refuse to acknowledge they are not only a part of the problem, that they are THE problem. This is a culture that came from them, was passed down to coaches like Bill Peters, whom Aliu called out previously, who passed it down to Steve Downie, whom Aliu called out in this article.

Yet nothing is ever done. No one is held accountable. John Vanbiesbrouck, noted racist, is still the Associate Executive Director of USA Hockey. Peters resigned as coach of the Calgary Flames this season, but only after the allegations became public. It’s a safe assumption that the Flames knew who they were hiring.

The Rangers are no strangers to this either. The team took a lot of heat for failing to immediately respond to K’Andre Miller’s Zoom call that was hijacked by racists. Four hours later, it was made clear they were working with the league, the NHLPA, and the FBI before releasing a statement.

This isn’t a player “earning his keep.” These are hate crimes. The utterly ridiculous thing here is that these hate crimes are occurring so regularly in the NHL that the players, the 99% that haven’t acknowledged the article yet, brush this off as “just boys being boys.” It’s not.

Hockey needs to be better. Toxic hockey culture needs to change. The NHL prides itself by saying Hockey is for Everyone. But it’s clear it isn’t.

Hockey needs to be better. We need to be better. But the question is how.

This is how. We all play a part here. Publicly outing racist people in hockey. Making sure we talk about it. Making sure everyone is aware of the current toxic culture.

The first step in solving any problem is admitting there is one. Hockey has a racism problem.

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  • Not sure about the gravity of the issue in today’s NHL (although clearly it exists to some extent), but I remember always wondering why a great player like Tony McKegney got traded so many times in his career. The guy was an impactful player.

    Regarding VBK, I thought his use of a slur was an ISOLATED incident for which he accepted responsibility — it is true that people make mistakes, people change … so each individual needs to be judged on their own merits. Calling him a “noted” racist doesn’t sit well with me, if it was isolated incident from 16+ years ago.

    • I would guess that the reason the “stars” that are being spoken about, don’t want to speak to you, is because they don’t want to be classified as you did VBK. Certainly they don’t want to be misquoted in a trash article condemning an entire culture for the actions of a few. Unfortunately, continuing to bring attention to the poor decisions of the few, is exactly what those few desire.

      • Sorry, but why are YOU directing this comment to ME? It sounds like your issue is with Dave, the writer of the article.

      • The cultural problem isn’t that the “poor decisions of a few”, that can happen in anything. The cultural problem is the lack of vocal and absolute condemnation of those actions. You don’t have to make someone who displays bad judgement a pariah, but the culture needs to support the victims more than the offenders.

        • Just like people have freedom of speech people also have freedom not say something. Stars not talking doesn’t mean they support what happened to Miller or Aliu. Not everyone wants to be drawn into these discussions. Some people are vocal some aren’t.

          • That’s very true James … but one could also say that “silence in the face of evil is itself evil: … Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” OR “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

          • TANTO both you and James have a point. I somewhat favor James although I understand what you are saying. At the end of the day, you can’t force someone to speak up even if they agree with you. In fact forcing someone might backfire. It’s like saying: “If you don’t speak out, you are a dick.” Not really fair now is it. Let me just add that the superstars might be speaking out because there might be more to this story that meets the eye…. why comment until you know all the facts and the whole situation.

          • No one did TANTO, but you implied that if you do not speak out against evil, your silence is equivalent to speaking out for evil. It’s not forcing but your comment is intended to make the silent party feel guilty that they did something wrong. Forcing, shaming, encouraging. Call it what you want. You believe people should speak out against evil and not speaking out is wrong. I disagree with you.

          • It is useless to argue with tanto. He never listens and always thinks he is right. Sadly he is so misinformed and a lot of times, I do not understand his posts. Seems like he should be on some other chat board for old folks lol

      • Unforgiven I’d agree with what you said. Probably more risk in commenting on Twitter and being misinterpreted than coming out and denouncing racism. Furthermore, who knows what the circumstances were behind this case? Do we really know what was said and what happened? No sense in commenting until we really know the whole story.

          • Ever stick your hand in fire? I will wager that there is not that much difference between the different degrees of fire. TANTO

          • Then how about degrees of smoke? lol What’s with the false equivalency? There’s gray everywhere, it isn’t always black or white. That’s life.

          • Really Tanto? Ask a pregnant woman if she is pregnant or half pregnant. There are shades of grey, but there is black and white too. You must have been absent that day when they taught that in elementary school Tanto

    • How do you know it was an isolated incident? You only know what you read Tanto. Maybe in private he riled against minorities calling them out, making fun of them. No one knows. Let Dave explain before YOU judge.

      • So Dave has inside knowledge about VBK’s racism? Why are you so quick to believe he’s a racist — nay a NOTED racist? If Dave has something then let’s hear it, but I doubt it … even McKegny doubts it, seeing as how he and VBK spent a whole lot of time together. Again, I didn’t say it was right … in fact I clearly stated that it wasn’t, but if we are all to be judged solely by the worst thing we might have ever done then I fear we’ll all end up in hell.

    • Re: Tony McKegney, I was at a Sabres/Bruins game at the old Garden and some iron lunged a-hole kept standing up in his seat and booming “Kill the n***** before he kills us!” He was allowed to keep on going all game, as if it were normal. Which unfortunately, it was. So it’s not just the players, coaches and admin. It’s the whole sport and its history dies hard.

  • The author can use anecdotal evidence to prove any point and pursue any political goal. I do not think, however, this is the forum for it. Racism exists, it alway has and probably always will. However, take a look at what has occurred in the United States since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. I am old enough to have seen “colored only” bathrooms and water fountains. That all these services are completely integrated today is taken for granted. Education and job opportunities are open to all, with much emphasis placed on ability rather than skin color. Basically, systemic racism has been legislated out of existence, which has bettered society. However, cultural norms take much longer to change and there will always be people who hate and/or harbor prejudice. Ultimately, that is their loss. I don’t watch hockey in the interest of social justice. I watch it for entertainment and love of the game. I don’t expect hockey players to be any different than the rest of us when it comes to morality and respect for their fellow men. Some are princes, others morally corrupt. The author is entitled to his political beliefs but frankly, I don’t care what they are. I am a reader because I have been a Rangers fan since 1961 and take great pleasure in their successes and don’t deny my disappointment when they fail. I have plenty of other outlets for political discourse.

  • Why drag players like Crosby McDavid through the mud into this – obviously they tend to be lower key. If you want the outspoken stars maybe more political instaface raucous you have other leagues you get that more with.

    Heck Jacob trouba , not a star but a big enough of a name and – likely a possible d partner for miller – put out a pretty strong statement and all the liberal hockey pundits totally glossed it over. didn’t meet their agenda I suppose.

    • Crosby and McDavid are superstars and by virtue are ambassadors for the sport. It’s an implied responsibility when you make top of the league salary and captain a NHL team.

      The notion of being against active, willful and virulent racism isn’t a “liberal agenda”, it’s basic human decency. This isn’t a matter of people being politically incorrect or tone deaf to race issues. It’s intentional and deliberately hurtful. Every single member of every NHL organization should call it out.

      • Funny how calling out racism (or any prejudice for that matter, such as homophobes, misogynists, etc.) is somehow just a “liberal agenda”. It should be everybody’s agenda.

        • Honestly, TANTO I read your posts here and it is clear you are an angry old man, who looks back on his life and realizes he failed. You criticise everything because in some way it makes you feel better about yourself when actually it does nothing to relieve your own pain of failing. Sorry Tanto, you cannot re-live your life. Why don’t you stop trying to impress us with what little you know and stick to hockey? Your non-hockey posts are not even worth reading they are so light in content.

      • You are totally wrong Justin. No one has to do anything and there is no “implied” responsibility to support anything. You do it if you want to do it. These superstars didn’t sign up to say anything. They signed up to play hockey. It is admirable if they do stand up against “wrong” things, but it is no way implied.

  • I don’t think Justin’s article is an overtly political post. I don’t believe that racism is a political issue. Rather, I think that it is a social, humanitarian issue. The players in the article raised the issue and so I think that it is a legitimate topic.

    I believe that systemic racism is not something that has been “legislated out of existence” as maintained by a prior poster. It has been of course reduced since I was child in the early 60’s, but the attitudinal component has real impacts today in both business and government, and also in sports. Unfortunately, social change often takes a turnover in generations for it to take hold. Fortunately, young people like my 18 year-old daughter and her peers get it far better than older folks.

    To the extent that it exists in hockey, it should be met head-on by the players and the teams. Color is truly skin deep, and racism is simply deranged. While I would hope that more players would follow stand-up guys like Jacob Trouba and denounce it directly, it would probably been the players union that should make the push. It is much easier for the players to get on this topic collectively and in the context of standing up for each other.

    Us fans should call it out when some moron in the crowd chooses to use a slur. Zero tolerance is the way to go and it is everyone’s responsibility to get there.

    It is a great game and would only be made greater if idiots were told that their prejudices will not be tolerated.

      • Peer Peter Penis whatever. Racism is terrible and everyone seems to deplore it. So where are all these racists? Seems everyone is against racism but where are all these people? None on the hockey board? I submit to you that everyone has a bit of racism – call it bias, pre-conceived notions – about other people. There is nothing wrong with that. It is what it is. The PROBLEM is when people PASS JUDGEMENT good or bad on people being different. You will never remove this bias but you can educate people so they understand that just because someone is different, does not mean you categorize them in a group and label them – especially negatively.

          • Peter… do us all a favor and learn how to spell your own name and write with brevity for God’s sake. Your earlier post is atrocious. Could have been written in three lines. No need to try and write elegantly. Comes across as awkward and pompous.

  • We are supposed to leave “political discussions” at the door, but here we invite a racism discussion. I am sure anyone can make any situation related to hockey if they try.

    How about we try to promote discussions that involve the NY Rangers?

    If this were a 2020 Life blog, all topics are included, but I thought it was a NY Ranger blog. Silly me.

    Understand that I am not discounting the importance of the subject matter, just the direct relationship to NY Ranger hockey.

    • Two points:

      1. Article writers and commenters are not equal on a blog – nor should they be. Dave in particular can write about anything he likes – we owe him that much. If he ventures too far afield, we can (and will) stop reading.

      2. This article is about hockey culture and that is very much about hockey. Our enjoyment stems in part from how good the players are. Placing obstacles in front of some players hurts our enjoyment. I don’t know that PK Subban did not develop into the best player he could be, but maybe he didn’t. And I sure don’t want any obstacles in K’Andre Miller’s path.

      • Well said Ray.

        Dave’s article was in reference to what hockey players have been discussing publicly. We talk about hockey in general here, not solely the NY Rangers.

        Finally, there was controversy about the Rangers’ tardy response to the imbecilic racial taunts directed to K’Andre Miller, so it would seem to be pretty relevant to the NY Rangers in that regard as well.

    • What about K’Andre Miller doesn’t involve the New York Rangers?!! Could you be any more wrong with this post? 😉

    • Creature Feature remember the days of Creature Feature and the Outer Limits? I think Twilight Zone was also in there somewhere. That was when Brad Park was playing. Rod Gilber too. Remember?

  • Racism, bias, chauvinism, etc., all need to stop. It’s better now that it has been in the past, but it still exists.

    It’s starts with us ordinary folks, to treat all with respect on a day to day basis. We all don’t have to love each other, but daily respect is not a lot to ask for.

    And speaking out against ignorant people who do not embrace these values, is just as important.

    The Original Richter1994.

    • You know, young Richter1994 you have your sh*t together young fella! I applaud your passion against racism. Now if only we can do something, not only express our disdain. What should we do to dissuade people from being racist? “Do” being the operative word here.

    • Richter1994 just saying racism needs to stop is meaningless. And sadly speaking out against ignorant folks makes them more ignorant and more defensive. Take gun owners. Tell them they are idiots for carrying guns in public and what do they do? Carry more guns in public. The answer is EDUCATION. The answer is PUNISHMENT for racists. The answer is PEER PRESSURE against racists. Now we are talking about progress Richter1994

      • Didn’t I say to speak out against people who are ignorant and spew this stuff?

        And I agree 100%, education is the single most important tool we have. Too bad the politicians do not fund it accordingly.

        I feel like that I’m talking to myself, lol.

  • In 1964, while stationed in San Antonio, I took a bus trip to Dallas to see an old girl friend from Brooklyn, who’s family moved there. The Gray Hound bus stopped in Waco, and for the first time in my life I experienced something that turned my stomach. There was a sign that “Colored people” go to the back entrance of the bus stop to use colored toilets. My reaction was WTF is going on here? It still bothers me to think that as a society, and in our history, that existed.

    Thank goodness things have changed, for the better, but there are, and will be fools that just can’t accept that the only thing different between us is the skin color.

    Yesterday, some jerk threw out the term racist against another poster because he didn’t agree with what he had to say. I responded that it’s such an ugly word, and by throwing it out the way he did, just hollowed out it’s meaning, and we shouldn’t use it so loosy goosy, and called him some nasty term. My post was removed, I’m not so sure it should have been, but so be it.

    Bottom line, folks stop throwing it out just to hear yourself, it just isn’t right. As for the story above, I agree with it totally, and if the NHL wants any credibility, they should step out front and center, and have some meaningful actions taken against people associated with the NHL, that use racist terms be banned for it…………

    • Walt! Great story about your 1964 days…. by the way what did you think of Man Landing on the Moon by the way? Wasn’t that nice when the family could all sit together and watch TV and talk with each other? Now everyone is obsessed with their profiles and image on social media. No one talks anymore. Serves us right this COVID crisis. Make people appreciate face-to-face interactions like you did in the 1960s!

      • To be honest, I wasn’t quite as excited as my kid brother was then………I’m assuming that we are about the same age, and have seen so many changes in this world, good, and bad!!!!!!!

  • Great article Dave. I applaud your courage to take on this issue with a strong point of view. For what it is worth, I’ve enjoyed mindless bantering with folks here, but from time to time, I see an important topic that deserves to be “debated” as it sheds light on all points of view. This is an important one. You might not convince everyone, but by just raising this issue, you progress us to a solution.

  • Come on people how do you think you can weed out prejudice from sports when it exist in every race of people in our world? If you are raised to look at others differently then you take that with you throughout your life. I’m a Christian man and believe there is only one race which GOD created and that’s THE HUMAN RACE! However, I have seen that stupidity everywhere throughout my life. I am white and grew up in a minority neighborhood and my parents told me you treat people the way you would like to be treated. The color of a person’s skin, gender, or religion doesn’t represent who that person is, getting to know them and seeing what is in their heart will tell you who they are. I’ve seen so called religious people be badly prejudice and wondered how that was even possible when you read a bible and learn GOD’S teachings. Bottom line to me and my family is prejudice is nothing but stupidity, and those who are that way use it to blame others for their own failures in life.

    • JohnnyRED There will always be prejudice. Even you are a bit prejudice and you probably do not know it. By the way I’d stay off of God and religion on this website. Religion has done nothing but create wars, hatred, deaths and greed. Not a topic for this hockey board.

  • Off topic, but thought people would like to hear this. A vote is due to take place today, and it appears that it will pass on the playing of the PO’s. If it does indeed pass, the draft will be pushed back to September, which only seems right. It was on the Blueshirts site if anyone is interested…………..

  • Thank you for this Post. Been a German Hockey player since 50 years. In my Active Time in a Amateur League ,I have expirienced all this in the locker Rooms as a Bystander. It was somehow ” normal” Locker Room talk ” I stood up sometimes but not enough. I would wish NHL Players would stand up more against this. But the most players are young and kinda ignorant ,just focused on their own Career.

  • One guy was posting using several user names, listed here: YouNeedWritingLessonsRoger / ArtemiPanarin / Tonto / Rick Middleton / MissPennyHomeRoomTeacher / Zucccccc!! / BobbyHolik / BarryBeck / Richter1994 with a Gold Trophy Rules / UncleFarQueue / PinchModerator [subbing for Dave] / Walt is Da Man / Richter1994

    This user has been banned.

    Note that the real Richter1994 has not been banned. Just the copycat.

  • I wonder if COVID-19 is like the SARS virus where it’s one and done, or if it is like the Spanish Flu that came in and killed a lot of people, left for a while and returned and really killed a lot of people.

    • Do not be surprised if we are sitting here a year from now with the same issue.

      There’s no curative vaccine coming (IMO), only vaccines that will treat the virus once someone gets it.

      • RICHTER1994, I would be surprised. Over 100 initiatives to find a vaccine that would stimulate antibodies to PREVENT contracting COVID in various stages of development. Moderna, Inovio, UK, China….

        • We’ll see. But if the past is any indication, then it will not happen.

          The flu vaccine has been around forever and is 20% effective. Viruses mutate and adapt, just like humans do, to avoid the counter effects of a vaccine.

          It is in the best interest of big pharma to treat, not cure people. And history backs that up.

  • Maybe people should try not to vote for elected officials that have the support of racist organizations so that culture can change.

    You know bridges not walls.

    • Ya but what if the most of the people are racist, like most of Donald Trump’s innocent and blatant KKK racists?

  • This racism thing you speak of is everywhere, not just in hockey. While I don’t think this thing with the Aliu kid was a small isolated incident (I wish it was). Those pictures of the kids coaches with black face paint on wearing Alliu’s number with the word “Dreamer” written on the back. They even took a picture with them and they all smiled like it was all ok?? That picture hit home. I’m not a minority so I can never understand how that truly felt but It disgusts me to see tasteless racism like that. It’s not a joke and I needed a shower after reading that article.
    I don’t however, think this goes on for the majority of hockey teams and it’s players. From young tikes to NHL vets, hockey as a sport breeds selflessness.
    There is a good humble and wholesome culture around hockey locker rooms is all age groups.
    I don’t for a second believe that this goes on everywhere inside closed hockey’s locker rooms.
    Mean things may be said out on the ice. I’m not saying it’s ok but I think that is just meant as normal chirping by the type of chatty players that do that. IMO as long as its not the “N” word, your a black player, you should expect to get some push back on the ice. Your teammates should have your back. When they don’t the player is left to feel the cold shoulder.

    • The thing that I do not like though, is the difference between true bias vs saying something stupid. Social media has become the 24/7 bully of our time.

      Camilla Cabreo (spelling?) was ostracized for months, for saying something in jest that was deemed to be “racist” when she was 16 or 17 years old. Really? Is that the “basis” for racism? Is that what we should be focusing on?

      No, it’s not. And by “calling out” every little thing that goes on or what some people deem to be biased, for right or for wrong, it takes away from rooting out the true racists of the world. As the tendency is just to ignore it, because it is said so often.

      There are enough true racists out there to try and educate to try and eliminate the problem. We do not need ti try and “manufacture” them.

      • Richter1994 I disagree. Many times, people say stupid things out of ignorance. They need to be enlightened IN A RESPECTFUL WAY, not in a condescending, liberal way. If you demean a person and don’t know it, you need to be told respectfully not to do it. Plain common sense.

        • We, as human beings, have the right to say stupid things, without malicious intent.

          That does not make it right, but it also does not “automatically” make that person a racist. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

  • Don Cherry was one of the most racist loudmouth people involved in professional hockey. That he survived as long as he did was a miracle. It just proves that many in the sport loved his arrogant condescending boorish behavior. Firing him and getting him out of the sport was like removing a bigotted, old fashioned, out of date loony. Great move!

    • Don Cherry was outspoken. But he got what he deserved. Reminds me of Tanto here on the board. A lot of angry, meaningless talk to diffuse his own pain of failing in life. Sad, really

  • There is a lot of racism in this world. Not only whites against blacks and other minorities, but also other races against whites. Just because we outlaw racism or make it immoral, doesn’t mean it goes away. It just goes underground and surfaces when people are upset and angry or in private conversation is a very derogatory way. Let’s not fool ourselves. It will always exist in my lifetime. We just need to make it unacceptable and punish people who are racist. That is called progress as opposed to accepting expressions of racism. That is unacceptable and is a step backward to the teachings of the Third Reich.

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