Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks is stopped on by...

Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks is stopped on by Igor Shesterkin  of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 22, 2020. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Two weeks after the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day which sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, a number of black professional hockey players announced Monday the formation of a group intended to address the issue of racism in the sport.

The Hockey Diversity Alliance, fronted by players Akim Aliu and Evander Kane, the outspoken San Jose Sharks forward, states that its mission is to “eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.’’

"We will strive to be a force for positive change, not only within our game of hockey, but also within society,’’ read the statement announcing the group’s formation, which was posted on Twitter by Aliu.

Aliu's revelations of racism he endured in his hockey career led to the resignation last November of Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters. Aliu alleged that when he was playing in the minor leagues, Peters, who was his coach at the time, directed racial slurs at him and otherwise discriminated against him. Aliu also wrote a first-person article in The Players Tribune last month in which he detailed the racism he faced coming up in the game at all levels, from youth hockey, through junior hockey and into the professional ranks.

Aliu, who played in the Czech league in 2019-20, and Kane were named as the co-heads of the group, with the rest of the executive committee including players Trevor Daley of the Detroit Red Wings, Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild, Wayne Simmonds of the Buffalo Sabres, Chris Stewart of the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms and retired player Joel Ward.

“We will promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with youth and will endeavor to make the game more affordable and accessible,’’ the group’s statement read. “We will also focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport, while advocating for acceptance and equality.’’

The group is not affiliated with the NHL, but the league endorsed its efforts.

“We are supportive of all efforts that are intended to advance the role of our sport in society,’’ said Kim Davis, the NHL’s Executive Vice President of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives and Legislative Affairs. “We are hopeful that this alliance will collaborate with our NHL structured council and committees — particularly the Players Inclusion Committee — to bring ideas for change.’’

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