In June, after the tragic death of George Floyd and the numerous protests that followed, Evanston Hockey committed to begin a conversation about the role it could play in promoting diversity and inclusion, both in Evanston and within the broader hockey community. As upsetting as they were, the events of the summer presented an opportunity to explore ways to change minds, set the right example and open doors for young people with limited access to sports.
Fulfilling those objectives won’t happen overnight, but a process is underway to set us on the path. Over the past few months, a committee of board members and current and former Evanston Hockey parents has been working to create a framework for a robust diversity and inclusion initiative—a small, but important role we can play to advance the change our country needs.
As a first step, the committee has drafted a Diversity and Inclusion mission statement for Evanston Hockey:
At Evanston Hockey, we believe our program should reflect the diversity of the community we call home. As such, we are committed to creating opportunities for players not traditionally represented in the sport of hockey.
The Evanston Hockey organization and community will also continue to provide support for all players and families within our organization as well as through advocacy at higher levels.
To fulfill that mission, the Diversity and Inclusion Committee is exploring options for our coaches and board members to participate in diversity training. If Evanston Hockey is going to build a culture that fully supports members regardless of ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, the change must begin with its leaders.
With a new state-of-the-art facility, Evanston Hockey also has a rare opportunity to increase the diversity of its teams by bringing in new members of the community. Evanston is a diverse place, one reason many of us live here. And competitive sports, and the important lessons they teach, offer the potential to transform young lives, one reason many parents sign up their kids to play hockey. But not enough people of color play the sport, in Evanston or anywhere else.
Evanston Hockey can play a role in solving this problem—and is possibly the best-positioned to do so of any Chicago-area youth hockey program. Devising and implementing the solutions will take time and hard work, but the D&I Committee is determined to find some.
One option under consideration: Creating a ball hockey, or street hockey, program with the City of Evanston. The program would expose more Evanston kids to hockey without the complications of skates and ice, offering a stepping stone to the sport. The inspiration for the idea? A street-hockey program in Harlem schools launched by the National Hockey League and New York Rangers.
Evanston Hockey is not alone in its commitment to promote diversity and inclusion in our sport. The NHL has shown its commitment to the cause through Hockey is For Everyone, a program the league founded in 1995 to provide hockey opportunities for underrepresented, underprivileged and disadvantaged youth. The program has since expanded its mission to celebrate and support players and fans of every race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability, whether they’re on the ice, in the stands or in the locker room. Evanston Hockey is one of a handful of organizations nationwide to be a member club with the NHL’s Hockey is For Everyone program.
The D&I Committee, which includes members of the Evanston Junior Wildkits, the Evanston Youth Hockey Association and Evanston High School Hockey, has only begun its work, so you can expect more news about its plans in the future. Seven volunteers currently serve on the panel:
If you’re interested in getting involved in Evanston Hockey’s D&I efforts, please contact Lane Howard (
) or Brad Dunlap (