Associated Press Hockey Writer
For a long time, Matt Dumba felt like he was alone dealing with racial taunts directed at him as a young man growing up in Saskatchewan.
Dumba is no different as an adult, one of the few minority players in the National Hockey League. Even in his circle of teammates, the Minnesota defenseman was alone on one knee on the global stage, silently protesting systemic racism.
It’s been about two years since the league’s iconic moment when the league resumed its pandemic-delayed playoffs in Edmonton, Alberta, and Dumba has gained some perspective, and he knows he’s not alone in reality.
“I’m the first to say that our generation, cell phones, social media, it’s not an easy world to live in,” Dumba told The Associated Press in a recent interview, before turning his eyes to the past.
“But at the time, segregation and how people of color were treated, it really made you see things differently and how much they did for us, even allowing us to feel our impact in the moment,” he said. add. “All of us are a collective and everyone is pulling the ropes to improve the game.”
Dumba was referring not only to his peers, but also to members of the Hockey Diversity Coalition he helped build following the 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The 28-year-old has a Filipino mother and a white father. Also referring to those who endured many of the same taunts and intolerances from the early days of hockey.
He realized this while working on the 90-minute documentary “Black Ice,” which was released in October.
The film begins by highlighting the progress and difficulties encountered by members of the Nova Scotia-based Color Hockey League, connecting the past to the present. Founded in the late 1800s and continuing into the 1930s, the league was credited with introducing batting and allowing goalies to leave their feet for saves, but was all but forgotten before appearing in the 2004 book of the same name.
As for now, the film documents first-hand experience and reveals the impact of hate hockey on current players, from the NHL to 16-year-old goalie Mark Connors, the son of mixed-race parents who faced racism at Prince Edward in February. when the island participates in the game.
For Dumba, he and others saw the late Herb Carnegie in tears in a TV interview in response to Toronto Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe’s said the reality he and others faced hit them. Order to sign him.
“It’s not right,” Dumba said of Smythe, whose name appears on each season’s playoff MVP trophy. “People are seeing that. People are also now recognizing that, actually, in different ways, it’s still happening, and that’s the saddest part.”
The NHL is a sport wrestling with diversity and inclusion issues, and Dumba said the league has been slow to adapt and grow. After being denied funding by the NHL two years ago, HDA launched its own program this spring to bring hockey to Toronto’s underserved communities, similar to what Skillz Hockey founder Kirk Brooks has done locally for the past 25 years, he said. year of things.
“The (NHL) has been looking at diversity since ’93, but they don’t seem to know how to deal with it,” Brooks says in the film.
Dumba added: “It just goes back to everything it’s been doing for a long time in the same way. You know, the Old Boys Club and they decide who’s welcome and who’s not. enough.”
Despite recent signs of progress, hockey as a whole has been slow to diversify.
Kim Davis, a black woman, was hired as senior vice president by the NHL five years ago, after which she helped found the league’s executive inclusion committee focused on increasing diversity.
The NHL is working on an internal race and gender report, which is expected to be released soon. Richard Lapchik, director of the Institute for Sports Diversity and Ethics at the University of Central Florida, is expected to turn it into a report card, as he has done in other leagues.
Canadian national team forward Sarah Nurse doesn’t need a transcript to determine how diverse hockey needs to be.
“If we want to see a shift in hockey culture, if we want to see hockey grow, the NHL really needs to take diversity, anti-racism and inclusion very, very seriously,” said Nurse, who is Black, who Cousin, Darnell, is an NHL defenseman. “They need to be leaders.”
She often sees friends sending their kids to soccer or basketball instead of hockey.
Cost is one reason, but also a lack of role models for children of color, nurses say.
Nurses have become one of those role models. This summer, the Olympic gold medalist posed with Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegrass, becoming the first woman to grace the cover of an EA Sports NHL video game.
Dumba has adored Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla since childhood, both of whom are biracial. He recalls having dinner with HDA colleague Nazem Kadri, a brilliant NHL forward and son of Lebanese immigrants. A young boy of color passed by and stopped his parents to take a photo with them.
“You get a little bit of a sense of the impact we’re actually having. That’s what makes it worthwhile,” Dumba added. “I do believe that’s why we all do it. It’s for the next generation, so they feel like they do have a voice and feel like they’re not alone.”