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."
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."