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Can hockey be for everyone?

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Pittsburgh Penguins v Ottawa Senators - Game Three Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images

Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. Equity is the quality of being fair and impartial. To have equality, you must build an equitable system first. Building an equitable system means that some people will get more support than others, but it will mean that there will be less of a financial burden on people who cannot afford it and allow for more people from disadvantaged areas to thrive in the sport.

Hockey in Society recently published a paper on policy changes that need to happen to make the game more equitable in Canada (the focus) than it currently is. The accompanying article about the paper allows you to understand the urgency that this paper hold for hockey overall.

But what can we do? If you are involved in minor hockey, I urge you to read over the policy changes and bring them up with your local organization. There are some in there that can be implemented without Hockey Canada involved. You can push for proper punishments for racial slurs including long suspensions and punishments. A hostile environment for anyone is an unsafe environment for everyone. Bringing up the issue of how to address racial slurs in your own league is a start.

Another change that should be made is for the romanticizing about how we talk about someone overcoming the disparities that are often there partially because of race. When people talk about Carey Price’s dad flying him in a small plane everyday for practice, we do not talk about how he was in a system that meant the closest hockey team for him to play on was a three hour drive away. Canada built a system of isolated reserves that are a perfect excuse to exclude Indigenous people from hockey by keeping them isolated and far from competition. Instead of presenting that isolation as another way of keeping the sport white, it gets reported on as Price’s parents, especially his father who was the one flying him, as loving him that much that they bought a small plane so he could play hockey. That is a sport that is inaccessible to many who live in isolated locations like reserves.

Hockey is a sport that wants to be for everyone. It has failed on two fronts: accessibility and racism. Until it properly deals with those issues at a grassroots level, hockey will not be able to be for everyone. The game can become more inclusive, but it has a long way to go to get there.