A former professional hockey player who faced both physical abuse and racism on his journey to the pros says Hockey Canada’s toxic masculinity summit falls far short of what needs to be done to solve the problem.
In an interview with PKBNEWS, Akim Aliu says the two-day Beyond the Boards summit, currently taking place in Calgary behind closed doors, only scratches the surface of systemic issues.
“Until we resolve a lot of these issues, these summits don’t mean anything to me other than that they’re trying to collect millions of dollars from their corporate sponsors,” said Aliu, who disputed a handful of games with the Calgary Flames between 2011 and 2013.
“And we want to see meaningful action behind these things because I’ve been through this, other members of the HDA (Hockey Diversity Alliance) have been through this and it’s the next generation of kids who really depend on us to many ways. »
Hockey Canada says the Beyond the Boards summit focuses on “open conversations about how to make hockey more positive for all involved” and will examine “facets of hockey culture that exist in other areas of the sport, such as elitism, gender-based violence, homophobia, misogyny, racism and s*xism.
Aliu says whistleblowers need rea*surance that their concerns will be thoroughly investigated and lead to change.
“We need to create a safe space for gra*sroots hockey for kids facing these issues,” Aliu said. “I keep coming back to the (Greater Toronto Hockey League) because it’s the biggest league under the Hockey Canada umbrella and what they get is basically saying, ‘Hey, we’re going investigate” and no one ever follows. aware of these issues.
“We have to keep our feet on the fire and Hockey Canada is where it all starts. »
Hockey Canada experienced a leadership overhaul in the fall of 2022 with the departure of its CEO and the resignation of its entire Board of Directors.
According to Aliu, the hockey establishment — from the NHL to Hockey Canada to minor hockey a*sociations — is full of people who choose to surround themselves with other people who won’t ask tough questions in uncomfortable situations, keeping put in place a structure that holds accountable those who abuse.
“They know they’re going to continue to be able to get away with this stuff and that’s kind of what the hockey establishment is like,” Aliu said. “They protect their own internally and anyone who is a quote-unquote ‘outsider’ is essentially on their own in the wild.”
Rookie Aliu and several of his teammates were targeted by other members of the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League during a hazing on the team bus in 2005. After Aliu opposed to the abuse on the bus, he was later physically a*saulted on the ice by a teammate during practice. An investigation into the matter resulted in fines against the team and suspensions of the coach and general manager.
Aliu was also the target of anti-Black verbal attacks from his coach Bill Peters while playing with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League in 2009-10. “He was constantly berating and embarra*sing me in front of the whole team on a daily basis,” Aliu said in a social media post.
Aliu spoke publicly about Peters’ racism in 2019, near the end of his playing days. Once the allegations surfaced, Peters resigned as head coach of the Calgary Flames.
This summer, Peters was hired as head coach of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League and began his tenure with a vicarious apology to Aliu. The WHL has confirmed that Peters has undergone anti-racism training, but Aliu claims no one has contacted him.
“Western Hockey League, one of the top three leagues under the Hockey Canada umbrella, and I haven’t heard anything from them about reinstating (Peters), I haven’t heard anything from the WHL,” Aliu said. “So to address issues that are (as) serious as what happened with myself and Bill Peters, and deal with them that way, for me is unfortunate.
“It also shows that Hockey Canada and these leagues are not ready for real change, because real change starts with admitting wrongdoing as a league and coaching those who have been impacted by this injury.
Hockey Canada says plans are underway for more Beyond the Boards summit sessions in 2024.
– with files from Jayme Doll of PKBNEWS
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