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Akim Aliu’s Account of Racism Pushes Hockey to Search Its Soul

Akim Aliu, a former Nationwide Hockey League participant, gave a harrowing account this week in The Avid gamers’ Tribune about his studies with racism within the recreation. Aliu’s surprisingly frank submit — by which he challenged the tradition of the game and named his tormentor — intensified a debate throughout the hockey group about efforts to diversify.

Within the article, Aliu mentioned a high-profile hazing incident that came about when he was once 16 and taking part in with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League. Aliu, 31, mentioned that once he refused to strip bare for a rookie hazing ritual, a teammate retaliated by way of attacking him with a hockey stick of their subsequent follow, knocking out seven of his enamel.

Aliu wrote that the participant was once Steve Downie, a best prospect who went directly to play 434 video games within the N.H.L. Within the article, Aliu referred to Downie as a “racist sociopath.” Downie may now not be reached for remark after more than one makes an attempt by way of e-mail and on social media to touch him thru former groups and colleagues.

“He was once two years older than me and a emerging celebrity, and he wielded his energy over me like I used to be not anything — like I used to be subhuman,” Aliu wrote.

He added: “If you happen to’ve heard of me, you’ve heard of the hazing incident that came about that season. Because of this man, that was once the best way I used to be presented to all the hockey international. I used to be the child who wouldn’t cross together with it. The child who didn’t ‘get’ the tradition.”

Aliu’s feedback resurfaced an exam of the game’s tradition that turned into particularly pressing in November when Aliu, who was once born in Nigeria and reared in Ukraine and Canada, accused Trainer Invoice Peters, who’s white, of relating to him with a racial slur when the 2 had been with the American Hockey League’s Rockford IceHogs all over the 2009-10 season. Peters, who by way of 2019 was once training the Calgary Flames, resigned in a while after the accusations however has since been employed to train a crew in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

The N.H.L. started an investigation into that accusation and mentioned in a statement that “the conduct that has been alleged is repugnant and unacceptable.” The results of the investigation has now not been made public, and a league spokesman declined to touch upon Aliu’s article, relating to the N.H.L.’s preliminary reaction.

However Aliu’s newest feedback have ignited sturdy responses from the remainder of the hockey group, as gamers, enthusiasts, and different stakeholders reckon with a subject matter they are saying can’t be resolved from the highest down.

“There was once numerous dialogue, in fact, across the league about find out how to transfer ahead from such an incident. To be honest, I believe the league has made certain steps referring to what came about,” he wrote. “The N.H.L., regardless that, is now not hockey. It’s a hockey league, however hockey is its personal factor.”

Since his article was once printed, N.H.L. gamers have expressed fortify for Aliu on social media. “We should all do higher and assist convey alternate,” Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner wrote in a Twitter post.

“Thanks @Dreamer_Aliu78 for sharing those in point of fact demanding accounts of racism and lack of awareness,” Anaheim Geese goalie Ryan Miller mentioned in another post. “I’m hoping that we will be able to all pay attention and be lively individuals within the alternate this is wanted.”

Some of the loads of people that spoke back was once Liz Knox, a former member of the Canadian national women’s hockey team, who pledged to “query my very own privilege, and search for spaces of alternative for inclusion as we construct a greater long run for girls’s hockey.”

“Our job is to make the game better,” added Subban, an 11-year N.H.L. veteran who is black, “but it’s also our job to protect the people in the game that have done a great job trying to help these issues go away, and I think we can’t forget to talk about those people, as well.”

Subban, who acknowledged that he had not yet read The Players’ Tribune article, commended Aliu’s outspokenness, but cautioned that the responsibility for change should not fall on any one group’s shoulders.

“It’s not just the responsibility of the black players or players from different backgrounds in the league,” Subban said on the podcast. “It’s of everyone.”

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Aliu said that the coronavirus pandemic had given him an opportunity to reflect on his journey through life and hockey. He said he had reached out to The Players’ Tribune three weeks earlier about describing his experience.

“Because it’s told in my words, I wanted to get my full point across,” he said. “I wanted to make it as raw as possible. I wanted to make it as truthful and as meaningful as possible.

“We’re going to need those star players to come out and back up the conversation. I definitely think hockey has a long way to go. This whole situation is proof of that, that a lot of players still feel silenced. Meaningful change is not going to start until players start coming out and voicing their support.”

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