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The Ongoing Question of "Hockey is for Everyone"


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Ran across this article from SI this morning.  I thought it was a good read.  Somewhere in the back and forth is the truth, but when you read this it certainly reads as if the NHL is not truly invested in the cause.

https://www.si.com/nhl/2021/01/19/akim-aliu-nhl-racial-reckoning-daily-cover

Some of the more notable points for me.

Quote

As members began blasting Bettman for not doing more to prevent these incidents, the commissioner seemed to grow defensive. Citing various NHL diversity initiatives during his 27-year tenure, he then asked the players what they had done and where they had been in the fight against racism. He quickly backtracked, but the damage was done.

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HDA players take this view: The house is ablaze, and the league is off studying the best types of hoses. Or, in the case of some power brokers, ignoring the fire. In one meeting over the summer, according to multiple people present, Davis commented in passing that some NHL owners simply didn’t see racism as a pressing problem in hockey. The HDA members understood her to be illustrating the barriers to instant change, but they were still jarred. In another meeting later in the summer, multiple sources recall Davis’s relaying how several owners had reported losing season-ticket holders after Dumba’s bubble speech.

 

Time and time again the league proves they aren't all in on this.  typical deflection these days "I'm not doing enough?  What are you doing?" and if you lose STH over this, so be it. 

The article is quite disheartening. I think there are opportunities abound to be better about all of it and to really make a difference.  But as always the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem and the NHL doesn't seem to be willing to do that.  Hell.. hockey in general.

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1 hour ago, LTS said:

Ran across this article from SI this morning.  I thought it was a good read.  Somewhere in the back and forth is the truth, but when you read this it certainly reads as if the NHL is not truly invested in the cause.

https://www.si.com/nhl/2021/01/19/akim-aliu-nhl-racial-reckoning-daily-cover

Some of the more notable points for me.

Time and time again the league proves they aren't all in on this.  typical deflection these days "I'm not doing enough?  What are you doing?" and if you lose STH over this, so be it. 

The article is quite disheartening. I think there are opportunities abound to be better about all of it and to really make a difference.  But as always the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem and the NHL doesn't seem to be willing to do that.  Hell.. hockey in general.

I don’t think this is any different than any other corporation.  Show them how they can profit from it short term and they’ll be all over it, otherwise they’ll pay lip service for PR,  just like any other social cause.

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Increasing minority participation in this game we all love is a noble goal.  And there should be no tolerance for racial slurs or bigotry.

But low minority participation is due to far more than bigotry.  While persons of Sub-Saharan African descent make up ~12.5% of the US population, they comprise only ~3% of the Canadian population (1.2MM out of 37.85MM).  Don't have European demographic statistics, but would be surprised if their representation is higher there than in Canada.

3% of 31 - 23 man rosters is 21.  Not even a single player on every team.  A number which is surprisingly (shockingly) low, but the math works out.  The SI article said there were only 14-20 black NHLers.  Is that stat accurate?

One additional aspect that works into this issue is that hockey is quite expensive relative to other sports and minorities tend to be less well off in aggregate, so participation levels would be expected to be slightly lower than the straight population share.

Hadn't ever done the math before, but am curious what will be considered success in expanding the demographic reach of hockey?  If they get to 10% participation in the player ranks (better than 3x the proportion of the Canadian population which is still the single largest source of talent), with a 32 team league, that would still be fewer than 75 black players.  Would that be considered a success?  And does the background of the observer alter the opinion of whether that is actually successful.  Before looking at the numbers would've said 'no, 75 players isn't a measure of success,' but maybe it is.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Weave said:

I don’t think this is any different than any other corporation.  Show them how they can profit from it short term and they’ll be all over it, otherwise they’ll pay lip service for PR,  just like any other social cause.

It not any different than other Corporations, that’s the problem. 

I seriously don’t see anymore than a few ‘non-white’ fans at games. Maybe because there are few ‘non-white’ NHL players?

Quite the opposite for some other sports. 

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I don't think the basis of the article is that they can't have a conversation or the profit aspect. I think it speaks to the ingenuine efforts from the NHL on their publicly stated initiatives.

It shouldn't be about how many non-white participants are in the game (I say this because you have Dumba who is Filipino, Kadri who is Lebanese, and others).  It should be about the absolute intolerance of racism within all levels of the sport.

But you can see from Bettman's comments and the concerns of owners... they aren't really interested in actively working against racism.  Certainly losing STH would be a "problem" for the owners.  But a bigger statement is to say "If you can't accept our position, we don't want you anyway."  I really question how much support the NHL should get given their continued lack of effort and concern over something so important.

Someone has to lead the way, and the people at the top of the sport are the most ideal ambassadors.

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I'm gonna take a different approach here.

We know sadly there are still stories of racism out there and I absolutely hate it, on all sides from all different colors, ethnic groups and the like. But I feel this movement we have seen lately (and we kind of all know why it part this truly happened in 2020 and they have accomplished their goal as of 1/20/2021), while it has validity to it, also in some ways the new rhetoric feels like a slap in the face as to the progress that has been made over many decades and continues to be.

As far as the media goes, the NHL is a very strong target given the demographics in the sport. And as Taro pointed out, this has a lot more to do with other factors then bigotry and it is not reported.

You can say that the NHL can do more and I get that and I am all for it. However, regardless of what the NHL says or does, they will be exploited by the media a bit  because of a very high white participation rate.

I live in Southern California, and a few times I have went to the facility where the Los Angeles Kings practice in El Segundo close to LAX Airport. There are lots of kids there playing on the ice and something struck me: A lot of young Asian kids are taking to the sport and other minorities too. As a white guy who has loved hockey and played when I was younger. I LOVED seeing this. I think Asians will have an impact on hockey more and more and time goes by. I say: All ethnics get on board with hockey its a beautiful sport!

When I go to games and see other races then whites at the game, I like it. The more fans of the game, the better.

We all want the sport to grow and be available to everyone and I truly feel as time goes in that will happen. Naturally. We all want any player or fan, regardless of where you are from, skin color, etc, to be comfortable playing or enjoying the sport just as much as anyone else. 100 percent.

I just don't want this to be used as a political weapon. And sadly, we are seeing that. And it needs to stop.

Edited by Ruff Around The Edges
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3 minutes ago, LTS said:

I don't think the basis of the article is that they can't have a conversation or the profit aspect. I think it speaks to the ingenuine efforts from the NHL on their publicly stated initiatives.

It shouldn't be about how many non-white participants are in the game (I say this because you have Dumba who is Filipino, Kadri who is Lebanese, and others).  It should be about the absolute intolerance of racism within all levels of the sport.

But you can see from Bettman's comments and the concerns of owners... they aren't really interested in actively working against racism.  Certainly losing STH would be a "problem" for the owners.  But a bigger statement is to say "If you can't accept our position, we don't want you anyway."  I really question how much support the NHL should get given their continued lack of effort and concern over something so important.

Someone has to lead the way, and the people at the top of the sport are the most ideal ambassadors.

 

I'm curious as to what your ideal would be? I can certainly understand banning racial slurs and not disobeying employment laws in the US/Canada but what exactly is the target or idea we are going after? Are we looking for a general population alignment? In that case mathematically the league is pretty close based on the numbers supplied by Taro. 

Are we looking for "affirmative action" style quotas? Because that would be insanely stupid given the limited pool of candidates. If you are looking for a person to fill a position; you should be looking for the best candidate in general not the best in a given fraction of the population. For example if, let's just imagine, people of Indian decent are rarely hockey fans but teams are told to hire at least one person from that pool; how would that workout?

Much of hockey's problem stems from the affordability of playing the sport. The innate racism in hockey is likely to have more to do with historical hurdles to get into hockey perpetuating a common racial profile based on those who can afford the sport in addition to actually wanting to get involved; versus that of all hockey people being racist bigots. They do exist, mind you, but I would take a guess you also have a number of hockey-specific racial biases due to the lack of minority players in hockey in general. The NHL can only go so far with directly mentioned inclusion efforts without looking preachy. What we need is a general normalization of minority players over time, not the few we have being plastered on billboards with "INCUSION" being yelled at us from some soap box.

In the end people hate, and will actively fight against, anything someone in power attempts to force on those involved; it is much better to help normalize it while not making a huge deal about it. Subtlety is key! 

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5 hours ago, LTS said:

I don't think the basis of the article is that they can't have a conversation or the profit aspect. I think it speaks to the ingenuine efforts from the NHL on their publicly stated initiatives.

It shouldn't be about how many non-white participants are in the game (I say this because you have Dumba who is Filipino, Kadri who is Lebanese, and others).  It should be about the absolute intolerance of racism within all levels of the sport.

But you can see from Bettman's comments and the concerns of owners... they aren't really interested in actively working against racism.  Certainly losing STH would be a "problem" for the owners.  But a bigger statement is to say "If you can't accept our position, we don't want you anyway."  I really question how much support the NHL should get given their continued lack of effort and concern over something so important.

Someone has to lead the way, and the people at the top of the sport are the most ideal ambassadors.

Business won't lead the way, and we shouldn't expect them to.  They operate to coldly and efficiently make money for their owners.  Social issues are only important as a means of profit. 

I don't think it should be that way, but it is.  Supposedly this is a feature, not a bug.

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Taking populations who culturally come from either southern US or literally deserts, and economically behind the average, and comparing them to numbers of a very expensive obligate winter sport is pure silliness. 
 

Nobody talks about the over representation of minorities in basketball and football like it’s a bad thing. 
 

Having an absolute zero policy for language and racism is okay and necessary. But beyond that, what could you want?

 

The price and availability of ice time is the true barrier. And minorities deserve that barrier to be lowered just as much as rural white folk in WV. 

Edited by triumph_communes
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Hockey is for everyone.  Period.

 

The sport needs leaders, be they athletes, coaches, referees, or commissioners, to step up, light the beacon, and keep it bright.  Defining metrics is hard, but listening to experiences is easy.  The work won't stop until all people are welcomed and accepted in the sport and the business.  The NHL is bad at this, but that means they have a lot of room to grow.

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18 hours ago, Weave said:

Business won't lead the way, and we shouldn't expect them to.  They operate to coldly and efficiently make money for their owners.  Social issues are only important as a means of profit. 

I don't think it should be that way, but it is.  Supposedly this is a feature, not a bug.

I would agree with this in general.  So usually when business toes the line it's because it faces significant backlash from its customers.  We are its customers, are we holding the NHL accountable?

Do we look at what Bettman said and think, "You know, this CEO doesn't get it, we should not support his products."  

Do we look at the owners not supporting the initiatives for fear of losing STH (and actually saying it) and continue to support them?

Do we pressure the advertisers aligned with the NHL, like Honda, and force them into making the NHL make changes?

The article really questions how serious the NHL is about this and that despite the lip service, they aren't doing much.  It's not about the cultural alignment, it's not about entry barriers into the sport.  It's about the fact that the NHL has a position where it can lead by example and because of its lack of diversity it might have greater impact. 

@thewookie1 - you spoke of affirmative action.  It exists. I'm not wading into it.  The NFL has the Rooney Rule. Not so much a quota but it does require interviews of a minority.  I think there are steps that can be had to encourage growth of minorities within the sport from a business aspect.  It might not be directly related to the coaching positions, not right away, but every step helps. It raises awareness of the sport in communities where it hadn't before.

Glad we could have a conversation on this though.

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18 hours ago, Weave said:

Business won't lead the way, and we shouldn't expect them to.  They operate to coldly and efficiently make money for their owners.  Social issues are only important as a means of profit. 

I don't think it should be that way, but it is.  Supposedly this is a feature, not a bug.

Yeh not true... if that were truly generally people would vote to their socio economic advantage more... they dont... its more complicated...culture, religion and racism play parts in both sometimes more than others... As far as overt racism it should be punished immediately.  But most racism and ethno-centrism is more subtle and hard to differentiate.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, North Buffalo said:

Yeh not true... if that were truly generally people would vote to their socio economic advantage more... they dont... its more complicated...culture, religion and racism play parts in both sometimes more than others... As far as overt racism it should be punished immediately.  But most racism and ethno-centrism is more subtle and hard to differentiate.

 

 

But business does need an incentive to overcome its bias if it want long term success or the punishment can come swift like in politics or both.

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I think it would be interesting to do a poll asking people to rank the four major sports in terms of their level of interest.  Then you could ask why they chose that rank.  I read somewhere Americans like higher scoring sports like basketball and football than lower scoring sports.  Maybe hockey is boring to some people like tennis is to most people.

I think if the NHL advertises the sport hard enough it will expand.  Maybe someday the league moves into Mexico and truly becomes a North American league.  

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On 1/26/2021 at 12:48 PM, spndnchz said:

A bunch of white guys can’t have a conversation about ‘hockey is for everyone’. 

Any group of people can have this conversation and express their opinion.  I don’t understand the comment?    Freedom of speech is for everyone.  Right?  

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On 1/26/2021 at 12:12 PM, Taro T said:

Increasing minority participation in this game we all love is a noble goal.  And there should be no tolerance for racial slurs or bigotry.

But low minority participation is due to far more than bigotry.  While persons of Sub-Saharan African descent make up ~12.5% of the US population, they comprise only ~3% of the Canadian population (1.2MM out of 37.85MM).  Don't have European demographic statistics, but would be surprised if their representation is higher there than in Canada.

3% of 31 - 23 man rosters is 21.  Not even a single player on every team.  A number which is surprisingly (shockingly) low, but the math works out.  The SI article said there were only 14-20 black NHLers.  Is that stat accurate?

One additional aspect that works into this issue is that hockey is quite expensive relative to other sports and minorities tend to be less well off in aggregate, so participation levels would be expected to be slightly lower than the straight population share.

Hadn't ever done the math before, but am curious what will be considered success in expanding the demographic reach of hockey?  If they get to 10% participation in the player ranks (better than 3x the proportion of the Canadian population which is still the single largest source of talent), with a 32 team league, that would still be fewer than 75 black players.  Would that be considered a success?  And does the background of the observer alter the opinion of whether that is actually successful.  Before looking at the numbers would've said 'no, 75 players isn't a measure of success,' but maybe it is.

 

 

I get your attempt to use ratios as a metric to see how equitable things are.  Keep in mind that you are calculating equity.   
 

Equity is related to proportional fairness by demographics, using forced distribution in a sense.   Equality is more about equal and fair treatment for everyone involved,  including opportunities.    The “treat everyone the same and fairly” is a no brainer and should be what we all do.   Providing the same opportunities is a lot more challenging, especially in a sports that require a significant financial commitments  just to determine if your child has the talent to be an NHL player.  
 

My two sons played AA travel hockey up thru high school and I knew they never had a chance to go far.   Some of the kids in our youth leagues played in NHL or are in the NHL right now, and anyone could see they were better than the rest.  I could afford to provide my kids the opportunity to play the sport, do as long as they kept their grades up and gave an honest effort, I kept them busy in something that was positive.   My parents could not afford that for me.  We had no extra money.   I had a few years of house league ice hockey but I maintained my love of the sport by playing free street hockey, free floor hockey in the school gym, and pick up shinny.    
 

Not everyone can get every opportunity.   So it’s what we do with the opportunities that we do get. 

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5 hours ago, LTS said:

I would agree with this in general.  So usually when business toes the line it's because it faces significant backlash from its customers.  We are its customers, are we holding the NHL accountable?

Do we look at what Bettman said and think, "You know, this CEO doesn't get it, we should not support his products."  

Do we look at the owners not supporting the initiatives for fear of losing STH (and actually saying it) and continue to support them?

Do we pressure the advertisers aligned with the NHL, like Honda, and force them into making the NHL make changes?

The article really questions how serious the NHL is about this and that despite the lip service, they aren't doing much.  It's not about the cultural alignment, it's not about entry barriers into the sport.  It's about the fact that the NHL has a position where it can lead by example and because of its lack of diversity it might have greater impact. 

@thewookie1 - you spoke of affirmative action.  It exists. I'm not wading into it.  The NFL has the Rooney Rule. Not so much a quota but it does require interviews of a minority.  I think there are steps that can be had to encourage growth of minorities within the sport from a business aspect.  It might not be directly related to the coaching positions, not right away, but every step helps. It raises awareness of the sport in communities where it hadn't before.

Glad we could have a conversation on this though.

And corporations of all stripes are betting on us not supporting them.  At the end of the day we generally don't look past our own wants/needs.

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4 hours ago, North Buffalo said:

Yeh not true... if that were truly generally people would vote to their socio economic advantage more... they dont... its more complicated...culture, religion and racism play parts in both sometimes more than others... As far as overt racism it should be punished immediately.  But most racism and ethno-centrism is more subtle and hard to differentiate.

 

 

 

They vote to their self interests.  I think more often than not, who we are associating with is a higher self interest that real socio-economic self interests.  I don't understand your "not true" comment.  I was speaking of companies, like the NHL for instance and not individuals, so I don't understand how your "not true" applies.

 

4 hours ago, North Buffalo said:

But business does need an incentive to overcome its bias if it want long term success or the punishment can come swift like in politics or both.

You get it.  Business is rather blind to everything except profit.  They need incentive to reach beyond profit making decisions.  We consumers tend to not provide them with that incentive.

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13 hours ago, Weave said:

 

They vote to their self interests.  I think more often than not, who we are associating with is a higher self interest that real socio-economic self interests.  I don't understand your "not true" comment.  I was speaking of companies, like the NHL for instance and not individuals, so I don't understand how your "not true" applies.

 

You get it.  Business is rather blind to everything except profit.  They need incentive to reach beyond profit making decisions.  We consumers tend to not provide them with that incentive.

The not true comment came from business actions... sure when getting started business looks for a nitch... to fullfill a demand and doesnt generally care about anything else but bottom line... but within thar realm businesses can have a bias... i.e.,   developing something environmentally sound, promoting or exploiting a religious or political agenda or marketing to a certain ethnic group etc.  It may be because the owners know that market best and or approve of that ideal.  Again money is the issue but motivation is more complicated.  Pure Machiavellian businessmen say like Trump are the exception.  Though compromises are made all the time and like no ideal, no businesses are pure. 

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