It’s Time To Notice Racism in Hockey

Discussing racism in the sport of hockey.

By: Raegan Subban

Chase Hardwell talking to teammates at practice

Racism is the belief in the superiority of one race over another. Racism in the form of discrimination persists in society. It is one of the major issues which occurs at many different levels in certain fields. In sports, racism is happening more often, also becoming a much bigger problem.

Sports Racism is a belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are superior or inferior. It occurs in both team and individual sports, but does not induce racism itself. Despite efforts to be an open and inclusive game, racism in hockey unfortunately exists. Over the past decade there have been a number of alarming incidents that have made national headlines in Canada and the United States. Imagine the amount of incidents that have not been reported? This is an issue that needs to be taken more seriously.

Sports are meant to be a colorblind activity that sticks to the concept of fair play. In any sport, there’s an element of trash-talking that players use to get in the heads of the opponent. “Chirping” is going to happen, but racists slurs crosses the line.

In 2003, Cecil Harris did a full ​study​ on racism in the NHL. Harris found that “Each black player…has to wage a personal battle for acceptance and respect…. Facing abuse that is verbal, physical or psychological because of their color has been an unfortunate reality for almost all of them.” A much more ​recent study​ found that South Asian players in Canadian hockey are consistently subjected to racist treatment.

Canadian Former professional hockey player, Joel Ward tweeted on September 2017: “I’ve experienced a lot of racism myself in hockey and on a day-to-day occurrence.” New Jersey Devils forward Wayne Simmonds has had bananas thrown at him on the ice. In 2014, Bruins fans sent racial nicknames to PK Subban on social media when he scored a game-winning goal for the Montreal Canadiens.

Despite the amount of racism at the highest level, it is found at all levels of the game as well. In April 2018, Detroit Red Wings prospect Givani Smith had to have police escort him to junior league playoff games after receiving numerous racially motivated hate messages and death threats on social media.

You think that’s horrible? Well, the fact that this sort of hate is happening in small-town hockey rinks is difficult to fathom as well. In March 2018, the parents of a twelve year old child from Nova Scotia reported that he receives at​ least one racial ​slur​ per year​. While on the West Coast, a fourteen year old was faced with similar abuse in British Columbia in March 2018. A teen as young as 14 had the audacity to call him the N-Word.

The consequences for racism are clearly not heavy enough since the issue is still prominent in the sport. Awareness needs to be raised for the visible minority these athletes face. More people need to be educated on incidents like the ones mentioned above so they don’t happen again. Leagues need to be more strict with the issue; a few games suspension is visibly not enough. Parents should be reporting to their local newspaper about their child’s incident, while news stations should be making it a headline. Head coaches should have a group talks with their teams and power skating camps should have information sessions.

Racism in hockey is still apparent and it shouldn’t be. The hockey community needs to do better as a whole.

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