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Sound Off: Making Hockey for Everyone

09/30/2020, 2:30pm CDT
By Matt Dumba

"There have been too many kids who have gotten pushed away from hockey to be silent about racism in the sport anymore."

I was about 11 years old when someone first made me feel unwelcome in hockey. We were at a tournament in Vancouver and I came to the lobby with my head hung low. My mom knew immediately something was wrong. She hugged me and asked what happened and I told her what was said to me on the ice by the opposing team.

Then the tears welled up in her eyes before she confronted the parents of the opposing player who made the comments, protecting her kid the best way she knew how and standing up for what was wrong. It was all very traumatic for an 11-year-old.

But those tears, man, that was one of the hardest things for me to see.

So the next time I faced those derogatory comments and the hateful vitriol was spewed my way—because yes, it continued to happen throughout my career—I held that in alone. I didn’t want to see those tears in my mom’s eyes ever again.

But I also never wanted to personally feel that way again. I was a kid demoralized. All I wanted to do was play hockey and be part of the team. I just wanted those racist comments and looks to go away.

It’s not something you want to think of as a kid, but as a minority, you have to deal with it more and more. And those feelings, that can push a lot of kids away. There have been too many kids who have gotten pushed away from hockey to be silent about racism in the sport anymore.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a hockey player. My favorite players growing up were Paul Kariya and Jerome Iginla because they kind of looked like me, right? I looked up to those guys because I felt that we had something in common in that sense. And if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. For kids today to see more minorities in the game from all different backgrounds, that’s huge. I hope it empowers them and shows them that they can be welcome in the game, and they can succeed and really shoot for the stars.

That’s what I hope this new heightened awareness brings and us at The Hockey Diversity Alliance can bring. It starts first with education. Listening and learning together. That comes along with more and more opportunities being made available for kids and getting into communities that don’t have a lot of hockey players or a lot of exposure to hockey. Programs like DinoMights and other grassroots initiative truly help grow our game.

I want to see kids of all different ethnicities want to play our game. This is my favorite game, and it’s given so much and I’m so grateful for it. I just want to share it and show how great hockey can be for everyone.

 

Learn more about The Hockey Diversity Alliance and ways you can get involved at hockeydiversityalliance.org.

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