MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Six months have passed since this big moment in hockey history.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba knelt during the National Anthem, inviting the world of hockey to face racism on and off the ice.
So what’s changed? Dumba told WCCO’s Norman Seawright III that he understands he’s facing off against an opponent that’s bigger than the game itself.
He says he got it all. An inbox full of hate mail. Racial slurs. Death threats.
“I was able to look at that and, you know, kind of be able to just laugh at it,” Dumba said. “You feel sad that they have this outlook on life and our sport.”
Dumba says the pushback for confronting racism in hockey means he is on the right track. The NHL has a zero-tolerance policy and hosts inclusion training, but racism still happens in all levels of the sport, from the pros to the pee-wees.
“Kids from 8 to 14 years old, have them come through the Wild locker room and, you know, share their experiences and … some of the issues that they faced,” he said. “Emotion just comes crashing in. It’s really hard for me to sit there and listen to their stories, and then have someone or see something that says there’s not racism in our game.”
Changing the game means challenging the game’s culture. Dumba estimates just 42 players of the more than 800 from last season were minorities.
“I think what the game is starting to recognize in some of the stuff that we’re doing is that individuality is what, you know, will sell the game,” he said.
Following George Floyd’s death, he helped create the Hockey Diversity Alliance. It’s using the sport as a vehicle for change by addressing social injustices. It is also actively reaching out to under-represented communities in hockey by not only teaching the sport, but making it more affordable and fun. Now, more players are getting involved.
“And I’d love to see more of it,” Dumba said. “Staying silent, as we kind of all know, is basically the same as the violence.”
And that’s what’s encouraging to Dumba. He’s not alone in this journey, especially in the “State of Hockey.”
“I’ve seen so many great things from people here in Minnesota taking initiative, and asking what changes need to be made,” he said.
Dumba hosts his first “Hockey Without Limits” camp later this month. Kids from three nonprofits will participate.
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