Akim Aliu calls for change: 'Hockey is not for everyone'
Former NHLer Akim Aliu penned a powerful piece published on The Players' Tribune on Tuesday, calling for change across all levels of hockey when it comes to diversity and inclusivity.
Aliu took aim at the NHL's "Hockey is for Everyone" campaign, outlining how he feels the initiative is a facade, and what the league can do to fix it.
"You know what I think is amusing?" Aliu wrote. "The NHL’s title for their annual diversity campaign, 'Hockey is For Everyone.' Makes me crack up. Because, right now, hockey is not for everyone."
The NHL's "Hockey is for Everyone" website describes the initiative as using "the game of hockey - and the league's global influence - to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities."
But Aliu, who experienced racial abuse starting during his time in minor hockey and continuing as a professional, said there needs to a stronger effort to eliminate mistreatment of minorities at all levels of the game, and that intolerant behavior is cultivated in hockey's culture from a young age.
"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 said.
"We should be showing off the diversity our game is capable of having," he added. "This has an immediate impact on youth involvement. Because I know there are kids like me out there who have a hard time seeing themselves in the NHL. Or there’s a little black boy or girl who wants to be an NHL coach, but he or she doesn’t see anyone in the league who looks like them."
In November, Aliu accused former Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters of calling him the N-word during their time together in the AHL. Peters resigned from his position with the Flames after admitting to using the racist language. He was hired as a KHL head coach in April.
Aliu was also at the forefront of a controversial incident during his time in the OHL when he refused to participate in rookie hazing and fought Windsor Spitfires teammate Steve Downie.
The 31-year-old met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in early December, saying there's "big change coming" after the league called the discussion "productive and candid."