Hockey is for everyone: making hockey more inclusive

If hockey is for everyone, why aren’t we acting like it?
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 11:19 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Hockey is for everyone.

Those are four words that hockey fans, players and coaches hear and preach constantly, and it’s one of the National Hockey League’s most important movements.

But it’s not enough to just talk the talk.

Lately, incidents of racist remarks and gestures have taken the focus away from the ice.

That makes those four words hard to believe.

“Those types of things are sad to see, especially in this day and age,” said Jagger Joshua, a black hockey player for Michigan State University. “These are the same problems that have been happening for years now.”

An incident involving East Coast Hockey League players Jordan Subban and Jacob Panetta in late January made the rounds on social media.

Related: ECHL suspends Panetta after he is accused of racial gesture

“It’s much more magnifying than ever before,” said Rico Phillips, Directory of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion for the Ontario Hockey League. “Because we have platforms to speak about it, now it’s coming to our attention that these incidents are coming in waves.

It’s not the first and it certainly won’t be the last.

So if hockey is for everyone, why aren’t we acting like it?

“That should be for people playing it, that should be for people watching it, on tv or live, you want it to be that type of sport,” said MSU Hockey Coach Danton Cole.

Cole is doing what he can to make sure his players feel welcome on his team.

“The guys in the room...that’s a brotherhood, and it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what color you are,” Cole said.

Joshua is thankful for that.

He and his brother Dakota grew up in Dearborn, MI.

“Both being hockey players of color, we’ve both experienced the same things and we’ve been around the ice rink I guess,” he said. “It’s something we can relate to.

In hockey, there’s always chirping, but sometimes emotions run too high.

“Why did you gesture at all?” asked Phillips. “Gestures are just as loud as words. If we can get to that and stop those gestures and being insensitive to other people, these incidents will go away on their own.

So as hockey players and fans, what can we do?

“Are we maintaining an environment that’s going to make them going to continue to feel welcome?” Pondered Phillips.

Joshua says: “The best way to inspire change or create it is get your voice out, and that’s something that I think the NHL has done a good job of.”

As a black hockey player, he does what he can to inspire others on the ice.

That effort does not go unnoticed.

“When I go to a hockey game and I see a black player, I look up to them,” Joshua said. “I know when I go out there on the ice, and there’s little black hockey kids looking up to me, it shows that if I can do it, you can do it.

“When I see young men like Jagger Joshua playing for me, what they’re doing, how they handle themselves,” said Cole, “then I’m pretty positive we can move things in the right direction.”

Panetta has since apologized for making gestures toward Subban during the game.

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