Sharks' Evander Kane discusses NHL's 'Hockey is for Everyone' movement

Sharks' Evander Kane discusses NHL's 'Hockey is for Everyone' movement

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."

[RELATED: Why Kane, Hockey Diversity Alliance value NHL independence]

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.

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.

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Ex-Shark Patrick Marleau, Penguins eliminated in NHL qualifying round

Sharks legend Patrick Marleau might have had his last decent chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL restart. Hopefully he gets another opportunity, because it ain't happening this year.

The fifth-seeded Penguins were stunned and upset by the 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round after the Habs advanced to the playoffs with a 3-1 series victory on Friday. Pittsburgh lost Game 1 and was never able to recover, thanks in large part to Montreal goalie Carey Price.

The Penguins scored just eight goals in the series, none of which were deposited by Marleau. In fact, the long-time Shark didn't record a single point across the four games. The Penguins acquired him at the trade deadline in exchange for what is now confirmed to be a 2021 third-round draft pick, as San Jose wanted to give him an opportunity to check that last box on his career résumé.

Marleau now will become an unrestricted free agent. It has been widely presumed that if he indeed returns for a 23rd NHL season, it might come in a third go-around with the Sharks. San Jose finished dead last in the Western Conference this season, but the Sharks' record was largely impacted by injuries and they certainly could return to the playoffs next year.

Really, it would only be fitting if Marleau ended his career in teal.

As for the Sharks, the qualifying round has gone nearly as well as they could have hoped for. Of the four Pacific Division teams that were involved, only the Edmonton Oilers failed to advance.

Due to the wacky 2020 NHL draft lottery, each team eliminated in the qualifying round has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 overall pick. Whichever team lands it is widely expected to use it on consensus top prospect Alexis Lafreniere.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

So, there's an 87.5 percent chance -- barring trades -- that Lafreniere won't immediately end up in the Sharks' division.

Given the season they had, they'll take any win they can get.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl 'finally back' on ice after January knee injury

It's not clear when the Sharks will play next.

One star took a big step towards rejoining them when they do.

Tomas Hertl posted a video Wednesday on his Instagram of him skating in his native Czech Republic, writing that he was "[f]inally back" on the ice.

View this post on Instagram

Finally back 🏒 @filipchlapik @hertlik89

A post shared by Tomas Hertl (@hertlik48) on

Hertl, 26, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in January and missed the final 18 games of the Sharks' season before it was suspended -- and, ultimately, ended -- due to the coronavirus pandemic. The center injured his knee on Jan. 29 against the Vancouver Canucks, just four days after playing in his first All-Star Game. 

The 2012 first-round pick was one of the lone bright spots in the Sharks' otherwise dreary season, scoring 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 48 games. San Jose generated 56.76 percent of the expected goals and 54.38 percent of the high-danger chances with Hertl on the ice at full strength, according to Natural Stat Trick, and Hertl himself accounted for his highest rate of 5-on-5 expected goals (0.95 per hour) of any season other than his rookie year.

Hertl said in May that he expected to be ready to start the 2020-21 season, no matter when that is.

"I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away," Hertl said at the time. "My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”

[RELATED: Thornton reportedly could play in Switzerland before NHL season]

Hertl's return to the ice marks an offseason milestone for the forward, who's signed through 2022.

He and his wife, Aneta, announced last month that they're expecting a baby in November.