Evander Kane, Akim Aliu help create new Hockey Diversity Alliance

San Jose Sharks star Evander Kane and Akim Aliu, a player whose allegations of racism led to the resignation of an NHL coach, are the co-heads of the new Hockey Diversity Alliance, an independent organization started by minorities who play professional hockey.

They're joined by an executive committee that includes Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley, Buffalo Sabres forward Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers forward Chris Stewart and recently retired NHL player Joel Ward.

"We will strive to be a force for positive change, not only within our game of hockey but within society," the players said in a letter released on Monday. "Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office."

Kane's impassioned plea recently on ESPN's First Take for "so many more athletes that don't look like me speaking out with the same amount of outrage I have inside" helped spark a league-wide outpouring of statements from NHL players and teams about the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the protests that followed.

Aliu has kept the conversation about racism and the NHL at the forefront for several months, after his allegations about slurs used by coach Bill Peters while they were with the same minor league team led to Peters resigning from the Calgary Flames in November 2019.

The H.A.D. will focus on all levels of hockey, with a focus on "educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport, while advocating for acceptance and equality." That includes tackling issues of affordability and access. The H.A.D. said it will be launching a charitable division in the coming weeks.

"In creating our alliance, we are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans. We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background and will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution."

The announcement comes as the NHL is forming its own committees to address diversity and racial issues in the sport. The NHL will soon announce four working groups that will tackle those issues from an executive, player, fan and youth hockey perspective, according to Kim Davis, executive vice president for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.