NHL Player Inclusion Coalition strives to continue growth of hockey

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former NHL All-Star PK Subban was all smiles Thursday afternoon at the James Boys & Girls Club in historic West Las Vegas, participating in an NHL Player Inclusion Coalition ball hockey clinic on the group’s first anniversary.

Then the team he was playing on, made up of starry-eyed youths, allowed a goal with less than five seconds left.

Subban quietly walked to a corner of the gymnasium, changed from his designer knit polo into a purple Boys & Girls Club tee, and returned to the competitive nature that earned him the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in 2013.

Game face on, still all smiles.

The 35-year-old player-turned-analyst was having as much fun as the children attending the 11th grassroots event the coalition has hosted this season.

“It’s great, this stuff’s really, really important,” Subban said. “It’s important to the growth of the game. Whenever you’re dealing with kids, it’s always a priority. They’re the future and we have to continue to be there for them.

“I think we have an opportunity to have an impact in this community, and set the tone for a lot of other communities in the league.”

Anson Carter, who co-chairs the coalition with Subban, said the event is a small sample of the group’s effort to continue growing the sport.

Carter and Subban were joined by fellow members Mark Fraser, Georges Laraque, Jordan Harris, Al Montoya, Abby Roque, Zach Whitecloud, Anthony Stewart, Julie Chu and JT Brown.

Whitecloud, a defenseman for the hometown Golden Knights, told the gathering that the coalition was donating $20,000 on behalf of fellow member and former Knight Ryan Reaves, providing 10 Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada with street hockey equipment and staffing for two months of hockey programming.

Carter said the group has pledged more than $100,000 in grants through various endeavors by coalition members over the last year.

The group is active in a number of ways in communities while coalition members participate in discussions with National Hockey League teams about inclusivity.

“It’s an ongoing effort,” Carter said. “It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, but we’re in (it) for a long time.”

Carter said one of the coalition’s priorities is making sure all hockey ecosystems intertwine by consistently having conversations with the NHL, voicing its opinions to be sure everyone feels seen and safe, especially in light of on-ice Pride Night restrictions and the criticism the NHL received for being slow to respond to concerns.

“The key thing, the operative word, is working with the league,” Carter said.

“When you’re thinking about the LGBTQ+ community or even other marginalized communities, it’s about making people that belong in the community feel safe and feel welcome. I don’t care if you like people that are not the same color of your skin or you don’t like someone (because of) their religion or their sexuality or what have you, but you have to respect them. And we have to make sure that people in those communities, all communities, feel like they can come to a hockey arena and feel safe and feel like it’s the place where they could be a participant, but more importantly, be a fan.”

Carter said the coalition is enthused about the Professional Women’s Hockey League after a successful inaugural campaign.

“Oh, we’re so pumped,” said Carter, who proudly wore PWHL hoodies during appearances on TNT and Sportsnet in Canada. ’We’ve got some strong vocal women that understand the importance of women’s hockey. And that’s a fight that we’re willing to fight as a coalition too, because it’s about increasing our game. It’s not just increasing our game on the men’s side, it’s increasing our game on the women’s side, too. So we’re very ecstatic. We’re very pumped.

”(PWHL senior vice president of hockey operations) Jayna Hefford has done a tremendous job with the PWHL in that group moving forward, and we’re here to support and offer as much support as they need. As little and as much as they need, because we believe that they’re part of the hockey ecosystem.”


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