Former NHL player, Akim Aliu, discusses his experience as a professional hockey player in a ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ interview with Ron MacLean. In the interview, Aliu opens up about personal hazing experiences, the Bill Peters controversy which led to the coach’s resignation, and how the NHL needs to change.
Following a tweet accusing his former coach of using racial slurs, Aliu gained the attention of the NHL and others. The former NHL player is using his platform to discuss topics of abuse and racism in the hockey world. Specifically, he states that he wants to bring change to help other young hockey players so that they do not have to face the discrimination and abuse that he endured. Despite these hardships, Aliu believes change is imperative. In order to grow and to bring more minorities to the game, the players have to be the first ones to stand up and start having this conversation.
Alui addresses the issue that black players’ actions are viewed differently. They are immediately judged on what they wear, how they act, how they speak, and in Aliu’s case, what music they listen to. Alui’s allegations have created change within the NHL. The league has created new procedures that require teams to report any acts of physical or verbal abuse to league officials. However, according to Aliu, these policies are not enough. He believes there remains an underlying sense that players are unwilling to come forward with similar allegations. Based on his personal experience, Aliu understands the players fears of seclusion, isolation, and having everyone looking at them in a different light.
Another reason why athletes have expressed scepticism and hesitations sharing their racist experiences is the lack of minorities in authority positions. It is white authority figures who accept or dismiss athletes’ claims of racism. They determine which claims can be taken seriously. This creates a lack of confidence in reporting racist events if a white person is in authority. Change needs to occur in order to diminish abuse and discrimination in the NHL.