Aliu takes aim at NHL and lack of inclusivity; Duchene puts health, integrity for return above all else — Toronto Sun

Hockey is not for everyone. Read More

Aliu takes aim at NHL and lack of inclusivity; Duchene puts health, integrity for return above all else — Toronto Sun

Hockey is not for everyone.

That’s the argument being made by Akim Aliu in a story he has written for The Players’ Tribune, published on Tuesday.

It’s also the title of the piece, with Aliu taking to task the National Hockey League’s “Hockey is for Everyone” campaign.

“The purpose of this story is not to drag everyone in hockey, or the sport itself, into the mud,” Aliu wrote. “This is about the biggest problems facing the game I love — and how we can fix them.

“I’m talking about the racism, misogyny, bullying and homophobia that permeates the culture of hockey. These issues have ramifications that most cannot — or will not — see. They are not fun to talk about.”

Aliu recounted some of his experiences that have been documented previously, including hazing incidents in the Ontario Hockey League involving Steve Downie, his Windsor Spitfires teammate at the time, and incidents with Bill Peters, his coach with Rockford of the American Hockey League, during which Peters used the N-word. Peters acknowledged last November using the “offensive language” a decade ago toward Aliu and resigned from his job as coach of the Calgary Flames.

“I speak about the racism in the game because that’s what I endured,” Aliu said. “But there are countless stories of white boys and girls being chewed up and spit out by hockey because of the sexuality or their gender identification — and those issues deserve just as much attention.”

Aliu noted he was “fortunate” to meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly at the end of 2019 to discuss some of the issues that he sees in the game, and that those discussions toward greater inclusivity continue.

But much work has to be done, Aliu said. Changes at the grassroots level would be a start, and the NHL could be more open to interviewing minorities for coaching positions.

“We should be showing off the diversity our game is capable of having,” Aliu said. “I know there are kids like me out there who have a hard time seeing themselves in the NHL.”

To finish the piece, Aliu said: “Hockey is not for everyone. Not yet.

But it damn sure should be.”

An attempt by Postmedia to reach Downie was not successful.

VITAL ISSUES

For Matt Duchene, the return of the NHL to play at some point in the wake of the COVID-19 global pandemic, if that happens, must have two vital elements: Health and safety for all involved, and integrity of the game.

“For the players, for the coaches, the training staff, everything — it needs to be safe,” the Nashville Predators forward said during an interview Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Tuesday.

“We can’t have any risk of anybody getting this thing and I think that’s going to be our ultimate, biggest hurdle for every sport coming back. Guys have families, guys have young children, I think it’s just (important) that we can’t put sports and the business of sports and the revenue and all that above that.”

The NHL seriously is considering a 24-team playoff format once play resumes, with the majority of logistics to be ironed out. It’s not yet clear how the announcement on Tuesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the Canada-U.S. border will be closed to all non-essential travel for another month will impact the NHL’s plans, but the league is hopeful that any affect would be minimal.

“The integrity of our game has to be maintained,” Duchene said, “with what the Stanley Cup means with the guys’ names on the Cup, what they went through, 82 games, and then 20-plus games to win the Stanley Cup.

“I would like to see as traditional a format as possible. There is no fair way to say who should be in and who should be out because of not playing the full season.

“For lack of a better word, somebody is going to get screwed. Let’s keep it as traditional as possible. I would love to see us jump to a 16-team playoff, normal playoff, four out of seven, maybe you are playing a little more frequently because guys are going to be fresh and you can play a game at 3 o’clock on Friday and play at 7 on Saturday and there is no travel.

“You don’t want to have a COVID Cup. I’m worried that if we come back and force this thing and it’s gimmicky or if it’s not quite right, whoever wins the Cup is going to have people trying to take it away from them their whole lives. They don’t deserve that, the guys who come back and ultimately win it.

“Our game is one of the games that has the most integrity in the world and I know guys are going to want this to mean something if we do come back.”

ICE CHIPS

CCM Hockey announced that the first 100,000 surgical masks it is donating to protect front-line medical workers in the battle against COVID-19 have arrived. The Montreal-based company, with help from Air Canada, has arranged for delivery of the masks and has coordinated with health authorities across Canada to distribute the masks immediately … The National Women’s Hockey League announced that the Toronto entry to begin play in the 2020-21 season will be called the Toronto Six … Your 2019-20 American Hockey League all-rookie team: Goaltender Cayden Primeau (Laval/Montreal); defencemen Joey Keane (Hartford/Charlotte/Carolina) and Brogan Rafferty (Utica/Vancouver); and forwards Alex Formenton (Belleville/Ottawa), Josh Norris (Belleville/Ottawa) and Jack Studnicka (Providence/Boston).0 

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