Hockey Diversity Alliance to expand youth program after successful debut in Toronto area

The Hockey Diversity Alliance has plans to expand its successful youth hockey program this year, the first big grassroots initiative for the group.

The HDA was founded in June 2020 by several hockey players of color, including Akim Aliu, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri and former NHL player Trevor Daley. Its mission is to "eradicate systemic racism and intolerance in hockey." It's an organization independent from the NHL.

While the HDA has had some successful initiatives, including an anti-racism hockey tape campaign earlier this year, the HDA Ball Hockey Skills pilot program was its "proof of concept" grassroots effort. It's running in June within five communities in the greater Toronto area, offering a free introduction to hockey. It's geared toward children between 6 and 15 years old from diverse communities who are underrepresented in the sport and aren't registered in an organized league.

"We know from experience that kids of color are often unable to play hockey because of access. Through HDA Ball Hockey Skills, we're removing barriers by bringing hockey to kids in their own neighborhoods so kids from every kind of background and every circumstance feel welcome in the sport we love," said Aliu, the chair of the HDA.

So far, more than 160 athletes have participated in HDA Ball Hockey Skills, which runs sessions catered to specific age groups one hour a week for six weeks. The HDA is planning another ball hockey program in August and plans to create an on-ice version of the program in October. The group says it plans to extend the program to other cities and communities in the future.

The program is sponsored by Kraft Heinz Canada, in partnership with the city of Toronto. Equipment for HDA Ball Hockey Skills and ice hockey skills programs is provided by Canadian Tire and CCM.

"It takes a village to raise a child and we are steadfast in our mission to be the organization that provides the resources to our youth that will allow them to reach their fullest potential, no matter where they come from," Daley said.