Akim Aliu volunteers with youth program, promoting diversity in hockey

Ailish ForfarNHL Editor
Akim Aliu is continuing his fight for inclusiveness in the NHL. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Akim Aliu is continuing his fight for inclusiveness in the NHL. (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Akim Aliu continues to push forward in the fight for inclusion in hockey by volunteering with the Hockey 4 Youth program this week in Toronto. The program provides free hockey programming for new Canadians, visible minorities, and high-priority youth.

Aliu has been championing the call for action since he spoke out about racism he faced by former coach Bill Peters in late November. Since then, hockey’s culture has begun to shift after multiple players shared their own personal experiences about abuse and discrimination.

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Aliu’s time mentoring athletes in the Hockey 4 Youth program comes just days after a photo surfaced from 2011 where an AHL staffer dressed as him in blackface at a team party. Aliu says that athletes of all ages and levels have reached out to share stories with him after he spoke out about his own abuse.

“Last night I had a good call with a kid named Logan from Nova Scotia,” Aliu told Gare Joyce of Sportsnet. “He’s dealt with some issues. We’re all facing different kinds of issues. I just want to be a role model [showing] these kids they can be who they want to be.”

Aliu met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman last week in Toronto which initiated discussions around creating a hotline for reporting inappropriate conduct. The NHL hopes to execute to “expedite a change in culture and make clear the expectations we have for the conduct of coaches and other personnel,” Bettman said.

“It’s unfortunate that it took this long to shed light on [racism in hockey],” Aliu told Sportsnet. “The last couple of weeks, things have been looked at very quickly. Hockey is a beautiful game. We should make it as inclusive as possible.”

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