Evander Kane is part of a select group of Black players in the NHL. The Sharks winger never has been one to shy away from speaking out on racial issues within the sport of hockey, and Kane recently was named the co-head of the new Hockey Diversity Alliance, which hopes to help address the diversity concerns in the sport.
Kane also joined the NHL's new "Soul on Ice" podcast -- featuring several Black co-hosts who also play professional hockey (Los Angeles Kings prospect Akil Thomas and Elijah Roberts plays for the OHL's Niagara Icedogs) -- and discussed how he initially reacted to the NHL's "Hockey is for Everyone" movement.
"I think hockey can be for everybody, I don't think it currently is for everybody," Kane told Thomas, Roberts and co-host Kwame Damon Mason. "I think there's hundreds and thousands of examples of why that's not true. The biggest issue I had, from an NHL player's standpoint, was the NHL placing their Hockey is for Everybody month in the month of February. The month of February has always been a month to celebrate Black History.
"To me I thought it was a bit of a slap in the face, I thought it was poor judgement, and I thought out of the six months during the season, how could you not find another month to have that campaign."
[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]
"Hockey is for Everyone" has been the NHL's campaign for inclusion since 2017, first beginning as a month-long celebration during February, which as Kane noted is the same month as Black History Month.
It since was expanded to be a year-long campaign, but Kane still feels the league's plans could have been executed better. He credits the work of NHL executive vice president for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, Kim Davis, for encouraging the league to make inroads with the Black community.
"Also, before Kim even got into the league and became a part of our league, we never celebrated Black History Month," Kane continued. "It wasn't even a thought, it had no interest within our league. And it was a question I always raised, but never got any answers.
"For me, that whole campaign, as great as it is and as important as it is, I thought it was flawed, and I didn't understand the messaging. For me, it just seemed like they were trying to overlook Black history and really, our Black players in the game."
Kane appeared last month on NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race in America: A Candid Conversation," and emphasized how valuable the platforms of athletes in all sports are for speaking out.
"If we used our platform only strictly to talk about sports...it'd be a shame."— NBCSAuthentic (@NBCSAuthentic) June 3, 2020
Hear more from Evander Kane at 8 pm tonight on NBC Sports Bay Area pic.twitter.com/tA4Z6a1fJV
In a league with an overwhelmingly white population of players, voices like Kane's are critical to help the NHL become more diverse and inclusive for all.