Men’s hockey starts fundraiser for the Hockey Diversity Alliance

The Journal speaks with Jaden Lindo and Jaren Burke about Pushing for Change

The men's hockey team has raised over $3000 for the HDA in the past month.
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This year, the Queen’s men’s hockey team decided to take the spirit of Black History Month beyond February and make it an active movement—a change they’re pushing into action.

The team has joined forces with campus group Step Above Stigma to found the Pushing for Change initiative, aimed at both building better mental health and creating a more diverse culture in hockey by raising funds for the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA).

Founded in June 2020, the HDA is an organization aiming to educate and encourage accountability from leagues and leaders at all levels of hockey, while also increasing the game’s accessibility. The bulk of its funding is used to provide equipment and access to hockey for all individuals at the grassroots level, while a sizeable portion is also used for anti-racism and unconscious bias education and coaching programs. The organization also holds social justice initiatives in support of minority communities.

The Journal sat down with men’s hockey’s Jaden Lindo and Jaren Burke to gain insight into their motivation behind Pushing for Change, as well as their experiences with mental health and racism throughout their careers.

Lindo said Pushing for Change was started when his head coach, Brett Gibson, challenged the team to support a positive campaign for Black History Month. Lindo later reached out to Akim Aliu, one of the co-heads at Hockey Diversity Alliance and a former NHL player, who wrote an eye-opening article about his encounters with racism in hockey. Aliu was happy to collaborate with the Gaels for this cause.

 
 
 
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Despite Black players having made significant contributions to the sport, Black history within hockey is rarely mentioned. Some of these contributions were highlighted in the 2015 documentary Soul on Ice, which featured Lindo alongside NHL stars Wayne Simmons and Georges Laraque.

Lindo said he believes more education is both necessary and beneficial to the sport of hockey.

“If you’re a hockey fan, it’s a part of the history that you need to learn regardless of the colour of your skin,” he said.

Without adequate education, hate and ignorance are all too prevalent in the sport of hockey, which Lindo has experienced throughout his career.

“I remember when I got drafted there were posts on Instagram and Twitter saying racist things about me being selected,” he said. “Whether I was 6 years old or 18 years old, these things still happened.”

Lindo said although progress has been made to enhance diversity and the overall culture within hockey, improvements in some places shouldn’t overshadow other areas that still require substantial progress.

“I’ve talked to other players of minorities that come from different areas in Canada and America, and their experience of being a minority hockey player is completely different than mine, especially if you come from smaller towns where there isn’t a lot of diversity, they might have more negative experiences.”

Burke shared similar sentiments, mentioning that acknowledging and discussing pressing issues are key first steps that benefit the overall the hockey environment. He said accessibility for all players should be a priority, adding that barriers, both social and financial, are present in the sport for all players, including minorities.

“Once [athletes] feel that they don’t fit in or don’t belong in the sport, or if there’s these barriers that are stopping them from participating in something that they want to do or love to do, then they aren’t going to be able to do it,” he said.

Burke also emphasized the impact racism and an unwelcoming culture can have on players’ mental health.

“I think it’s definitely on the minds of a lot of minority athletes, especially in hockey, you can be hyper-aware of how you’re being perceived by your teammates or your coaches or even scouts and recruiters. It takes a toll on your mental health,” he said.

While there’s a lot of work to be done, the men’s hockey team has had a remarkably successful campaign, having raised over $3,000 for the HDA in the past month.

“[O]n top of that, we’ve been trying to spread awareness as far experiences that minority athletes have in hockey,” Burke said. “Our teammates have been pushing to learn more and figure out what they can do to grow the game and promote change in hockey.”

As an added incentive to potential donors, the men’s hockey team has also pledged to do one push-up for every dollar raised.

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