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AKIM ALIU SHARES HIS STORY, “HOCKEY IS NOT FOR EVERYONE”

On Tuesday Akim Aliu shared a link on his Twitter to his personal story titled “Hockey is Not for Everyone.” In it, he expresses the challenges that he has overcome and the challenges that he continues to face as a minority athlete. He emphasized that the purpose in writing his story was “not to drag everyone in hockey, or the sport itself, into the mud,” but to spark conversations and inspire change.

“I see you guys and girls in my mentions on Twitter whenever I post something about my efforts to help change the game,” Aliu said. “I see that you’re fighting for the same thing. Your support truly means the world to me.” He discusses the fact that he also receives countless “horrible messages” and shares screenshots of crude and demeaning messages from his social media accounts. The messages are part of what motivated him to share his story.

Aliu goes into detail on several different incidents where he faced racism as a hockey player. Many people first learned the name Akim Aliu as he became a victim in a major-junior hockey league hazing incident in 2005. Several older players on the Windsor Spitfires forced four rookie players to strip and cram into the bathroom in the back of the bus while their team was on the road. Aliu refused to comply and a few days later one of those older players, Steve Downie, crosschecked Aliu in the face, knocking out seven of his teeth.

His incident with Downie was not the first time that Aliu felt isolated as a hockey player and it also was not the last. He recounts a time when he was eleven years old at a tournament in Quebec. He heard someone in the stands shout, “How many times are we going to let this n**** score?” As he recounts the incident, he recalls that “the game went on, none of my teammates or coaches said anything to me.”

In 2019, Bill Peters resigned as the coach of the Calgary Flames after admitting to using that same racial slur towards Aliu back in 2009. “The way he used that word, he completely stripped me of my humanity,” Aliu said. “To him, I was nothing. He made that immensely clear.”



Aliu shares details of these incidents with hope of shedding light on an issue that might be overshadowed by the NHL’s “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative. “Right now, I think the title of the NHL’s diversity campaign is a little funny,” Aliu said. “It’s like putting up a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner before even starting the mission.”

In order to start the “mission,” Aliu believes there are two major steps that need to be taken.

The first change he wants to see take place would be “at the grassroots level.” He wants Hockey Canada and USA Hockey to “teach coaches how to treat players.” Aliu acknowledges that there are many exceptional coaches and role models, but the issue is that “we need more of them.”

The second change that Aliu would like to see take place would be at the professional level. He thinks that diversity should be promoted in a more genuine way within professional hockey. He noted the fact that the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, the NHL's LQBTQ support program, and black history month all took place at the same time. “When I saw that, it made me feel that people like us, the outcasts, are a chore to them. Something to tick off a checklist and forget about for a year.”

Aliu wants to see the NHL improve and believes that it can be done.

Aliu concludes his story by saying:

“What we CAN do is be honest.

What we CAN do is be courageous.

What we CAN do is stand up for one another.

That’s what hockey is supposed to be all about, right?

Hockey is not for everyone. Not yet.

But it damn sure should be.

-Akim ‘Dreamer’ Aliu”

source: The Players' Tribune
ASHLEY SANDERS
MAY 19, 2020  (14H22)
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