The National Hockey League (NHL) for the first time has conducted a demographic study of the employees of all thirty-two teams, and the results are grim: It turns out that the league is entirely too white and male for our enlightened age. This must not stand, and the league has made it clear that it is going to take immediate measures to correct this unacceptable situation. Quality employees? Winning hockey games? All that is archaic. Henceforth success in the NHL will be measured by how “diverse” each team is.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that a 24-page report that was presented to the league’s Board of Governors and distributed to multiple internal committees showed that fully “83.6% of the NHL’s workforce is white and that men make up nearly 62% of the total.” Even worse, “more than 90% of players and nearly all coaches and officials are white.” A shiver went up my spine.
Kim Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth and legislative affairs, emphasized that all this color-of-head-counting was the prelude to concerted action to make sure that hockey would henceforth be a multiracial, multicultural extravaganza: “The whole purpose behind doing a workforce study,” she womansplained, “is to provide a baseline: a fact-based baseline so that you can begin to develop very intentional and specific strategies around where you need to hire, how you need to hire, how you need to improve your brand. This is a good start, but there’s a ways to go.” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman added that the findings of the report will lead to policies “that will produce the greatest impacts in the years to come.”
But the process has already begun. Said Davis: “A number of those steps are already in progress. You can’t expect to recruit [Black, Indigenous and people of color] folks to work in the league if you don’t at the same time have your stadium fan code of conduct underway so people feel like the sport is really serious about growing the fan base. You also have to make sure that you are reaching out to the communities from a youth participation perspective, so all of those efforts are underway.”
The import of the statements from Davis and Bettman was clear: The NHL will henceforth be hiring on the basis of gender and color. Teams will likely even sign players with an eye toward diversity rather than performance. Does this mean that hockey players who happen to be black or Hispanic or Chinese or whatever will get preference over white hockey players who actually play the game better than they do, but have the curse of white skin? Of course it does: in today’s cultural climate, can you see hockey teams passing up a chance to become the most ostentatiously diverse team in the NHL?
Left unexamined in all this is the question of why exactly the NHL is so white. Is the league full of racists? Are deserving players and staffers of color passed over by cigar-chomping, fiendishly cackling executives with pictures of George Wallace on their office walls? AP noted that “the league hired Davis in 2017 to spearhead diversity and inclusion efforts, which picked up in 2019 when Nigeria-born player Akim Aliu revealed a coach used racist language toward him a decade earlier in the minors.” Another player, “Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, said recently he still sees racism in hockey.”
This may be true, but one coach who wasn’t even in the NHL allegedly using racist language ten years ago doesn’t establish much, and Dumba had to refer back to an incident from the 1930s to support his claim. It’s much more likely that the NHL is largely white simply because hockey is popular in areas where there is plenty of ice, and those areas have historically been largely white. A 2011 study showed the National Basketball Association (NBA) players to be 83% “people of color,” and no one began any initiatives to make sure that each NBA team had a few short white players for the sake of “diversity.” Nobody thinks that black players dominate the NBA because of anti-white racism, but when it comes to the NHL, racism is the default explanation.
No one, however, is in the mood for any common sense. The NHL will now be hiring on color, not quality. And to those who find this absurd and counterproductive, Davis says: “Change can feel uncomfortable. There are going to be moments that are very, very uncomfortable, but we have to have a plan of action. We have to keep moving in that direction.” Yeah, sure we do. But why?