Joel Ward

Why Evander Kane, Hockey Diversity Alliance value independence of NHL

Why Evander Kane, Hockey Diversity Alliance value independence of NHL

The Sharks were one of two NHL teams to issue statements directly attributed to their owners following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody just over two weeks ago.

Hasso Plattner, the co-founder of German software giant SAP and the Sharks' majority owner for a decade, did not mention Floyd's name in the statement but said the team "[applauded Evander Kane] for his rational and thoughtful response to the recent terrible tragedy" as the forward spoke out against police brutality and systemic racism in the days after Floyd died.

Evander Kane, who is black, was named as the co-head of the newly formed Hockey Diversity Alliance on Monday, and the group seeks to "eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey." The 28-year-old repeatedly stressed Tuesday in a conference call with reporters that culture change in the sport "starts at the top," and that his "really positive" conversations with Plattner and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson were a good sign.

"I think that's important," Kane said of Plattner's support. "That took leadership. [He's one of the only NHL owners] that made a personal statement, and I think that speaks volumes, and we need more of that."

A top-down approach is key to the Hockey Diversity Alliance's mission. Kane said the group, which also features former Sharks winger Joel Ward as one of six current and former NHL players on its executive committee, believes rooting out racism in the NHL can create change at levels below the sport's highest.

The alliance said Monday it will do so working alongside the league, but not for it. The Hockey Diversity Alliance is independent of the NHL, the statement said, but is "hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes."

"The important part when it comes to us being independent is that we're empowering ourselves to have control over what we have set out to do," Kane explained Tuesday. "We don't want this to be something that just looks good, or is a box that's ticked off. We want to truly establish new policies throughout hockey at all levels. We want to help create a more diverse game, a more diverse fan base, and have everybody feel comfortable in their own skin when it comes to our game. ... I think [independence] is a great way to have another layer of accountability when it comes to different committees getting involved with one another."

[RELATED: Kap's help to Kane, Hockey Diversity Alliance 'invaluable']

Because of that independence, Kane and his peers can go further advocating for change than the league or its teams otherwise might. Kane and many other players have spoken out against police brutality following Floyd's death. None of the NHL's 32 franchises, including the yet-to-be-named expansion team in Seattle, mentioned police violence in their statements. Only 11 mentioned Floyd by name.

The group is focused on confronting racism within the sport, which Kane believes can have a positive effect on society as a whole by "ingraining those values we want to create in our game." Kane and the Hockey Diversity Alliance think that can happen working alongside the NHL, but it will require conversations with decision-makers much like Kane's with Plattner and Wilson.

"We want to work with the league and establish this necessary change in our game, and the culture of our game," Kane said. "It's imperative that we work with the league in order to accomplish some of those goals.

"I think what we seek from the league is really an ear, and somebody that can listen to some of the things that we want to implement and policies that we think can help [enact] change not only in the present time, but going on and moving into the future."

Sharks' Evander Kane named co-head of new Hockey Diversity Alliance

Sharks' Evander Kane named co-head of new Hockey Diversity Alliance

Evander Kane continues to be a face and voice for social and racial injustices. That includes in the NHL as well. 

The Sharks' star winger announced Monday the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Kane will serve as co-head with Akim Aliu, who last played in the NHL in 2013. 

Former Sharks winger Joel Ward, who announced his retirement on April 27, was named to the executive committee as well. 

Kane has made his voice heard following the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died in Minneapolis police custody. On May 27, Kane tweeted and signed a petition demanding the four officers involved in the death be arrested. Using his voice isn't something new for Kane, though. 

He time and time again has spoken out against racism in hockey within the last year. Kane also tweeted about the importance of Aliu writing a piece in "The Players Tribune" called "Hockey Is Not For Everyone." 

Kane also appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area's "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" and spoke on the importance of athletes using their voice. Notably, he debunked the idea of "sticking to sports."

"If we our platform only strictly to talk about sports and you have such a massive issue in society when it comes to racial injustice that we were to just shut our mouths and continue to go on about our business, I think that would be a shame," Kane said.

[RELATED: Sharks' Karlsson supports Kane, prays for better world]

It's clear Kane is up for the challenge to use his voice and lead the Hockey Diversity Alliance.

Former Sharks forward Joel Ward figuring out next step of NHL career

Former Sharks forward Joel Ward figuring out next step of NHL career

When he officially retired one week ago, it had been 751 days since Joel Ward’s last NHL game.
 
Which puts Ward in that rare category of former athletes, who just kind of… forgot to self-announce their end.
 
“I was just so busy focusing on my little guy here,” Ward said via FaceTime. “That, I kind of got sidetracked.”
 
Ward was referring to his 1-year old son Robinson, who was one of the several key elements that helped with the mental conclusion of his hockey career.
 
“If I ran into you, I’d pretty much tell you I was done,” Ward said. “But for a lot people that didn’t know, they were still up in the air. It was good for me Monday to tell my story, and put it to rest.”
 
Ward penned one beauty of a goodbye note in The Players’ Tribune to make it official.
 
He shared memorable pieces of an uphill hockey journey, including the passing of his father, the dedication of his mother and the storybook path of playing 726 NHL games, despite never even being drafted.
 
“What a ride it was for me,” Ward reminisced. “Back then, If I could play just one game that would be great.”
 
Ward’s first NHL game came with the Minnesota Wild, but he was more prominently known for his time with the Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals. However, it’s no coincidence he has made San Jose his permanent home.
 
“We have a lot of roots here, my little guy was born here,” Ward said. “Right at El Camino hospital up the street. A lot kind of hit home and seemed like a good fit at the time. We’ve made the transition of sticking out here.”
 
Now that the Ward family is settled, Joel has his eventual sights on a hockey coaching career.
 
“I don’t really have anything set in stone,” Ward explained. “It’s just something I’d kind of like to pursue.”

[RELATED: Newly-retired Ward hopes to return to Sharks as a coach]
 
After 11 NHL seasons, Ward has a resume of experience that should go over well in a dressing room.
 
“I’ve been in bottom end of the lineups to playing a couple times on the top end,” Ward said. "Just feeling like I could relate to a lot of guys.
 
“It would be insane for me not to share.”