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Diversity and hockey can mesh well

Like the NHL says: “Hockey is for everyone.”

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s teams are based in North America, but the league has a global influence. As a result, the NHL increases social change while creating more inclusive communities.

The NHL has come a long way in terms of diversity. When the league started, it was pretty much a Canadian, mono-ethnic sport. Currently, he league’s players are 93% Caucasian, with 7% who are people of color. The latter isn’t anywhere near the minority stats of the NFL and NBA, but it’s a step in the right direction.

If you’re a St. Louis Blues fan, you’ve probably heard about the North City Blues. If you haven’t, you might want to continue reading. North City’s a wonderful program for African-American children, with their goal being to increase diversity and access to the sport of hockey. Their advisor and lead instructor is Jamal Mayers, a former right-wing who played for the Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs (his hometown team), Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, and rival Chicago Blackhawks.

Mayers told STLPR: “Selflessness, dedication, hard work, perseverance — those are the qualities I want in all my kids. And I think that hockey is a great vehicle to teach kids those life lessons and hopefully have a little fun along the way.”

Mayers is right. Not only that, but he’s also interested in helping these kids learn life skills for the future. This is excellent because these kids are having fun, building relationships, and staying out of trouble.

Mayers stated: “Try it. Succeed. Have fun. Meet new people and get to experience something unique. Getting to come down to the Enterprise Center is pretty cool.”

As of 2020, St. Louis is 43.9% White (42.9% non-Hispanic white), 43% Black, 5.1% Hispanic, and 4.1% Asian. As you can see, White and Black are the dominant racial groups in the city. Approximately 6.2% of Blacks have left the city, but North County remains mostly Black.

Regardless of your political views, I believe you should know that racial division is a real thing in the United States. St. Louis is one of the many examples in the U.S.

As a second-generation Asian American, I support inclusion for minority groups, whether they like hockey and sports or not. I’m pretty sure the pandemic has brought Blacks and Asians together with #BlackLivesMatter, #StopAsianHate, and vice versa. These are two racial groups who might be given different labels, but they’re still people of color. That’s the beautiful thing about America. It’s a diverse country with a wide variety of people from all walks of life. Everyone, including myself, has a fair chance of achieving success in life.

I was born in America, but I’ve spent part of my childhood in Canada. In the mid-1990s, there were few Asian and part-Asian NHLers, but I remember learning tidbits about the late Larry Kwong. And, obviously, I’ve watched players like Devin Setoguchi and Paul Kariya, despite being an avid NFL and NCAA football fan. What hockey fan hasn’t watched those players at one point in their lives?

As far as Asian NHLers go, NHL.com published an article last April titled: “Asian and Pacific Islander communities make growing impact on NHL.” They’re not wrong.

Although there aren’t massive groups of Asians playing hockey like there are in tennis, golf, and basketball, this was a rising tide in the hockey world. In 2021, there were 31 NHLers of Asian or South Asian descent who followed in Kwong’s footsteps. Jujhar Khaira is the NHL’s only player of Indian descent.

I caught up with a former Blues player at lunch last month. At one point, we talked about my Chinese and Vietnamese roots, and he knew that they didn’t play hockey in Vietnam. Well, at least not professionally.

Trust me, I was glad he knew where I was coming from. I mean, hockey is still a new sport in Vietnam.

As of 2016, there are around 240,615 Vietnamese Canadians. Ice hockey is the national sport in Canada, like American football is the most popular sport in America. When you (or at least your family) step foot in a new country, there’s a probable chance you’re going to try to fit in with the locals, whether you intend to or not. With that said, there are going to be Vietnamese (and any minority, really) hockey fans and players in countries like Canada, Germany, etc.

Keep in mind that in places like Asia, Africa, and Mexico, their climates tend to be more hot and humid. I don’t know if you’ve traveled before, but try to think of a long-term summer in Missouri. It’s essentially those temperatures, especially during the summers. So, ice hockey likely isn’t the first sport that an athlete from a year-round hotter country thinks of.

At the end of the day, diversity is increasing in hockey and that’s a wonderful thing. Not just for racial progress, but also for the justification of the statement: “Hockey is for everyone.”