Throughout the month of February, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association has committed to honouring Black History Month by amplifying Black voices, sharing Black hockey history and supporting Black organizations. The importance of honouring Black history and supporting Black communities cannot be understated; this is why our commitment will continue beyond Black History Month.
The work to educate PWHPA players and staff on the importance of diversity and anti-racism in hockey began in 2020 with a series of monthly Anti-Racism sessions led by Dr. Courtney Szto—Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen’s University and author of “Changing on the Fly: Hockey through the voices of South Asian Canadians.”—and other distinguished experts, including Dr. Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown (Virginia Tech) and Dr. Natalie Welch (Linfield University). These sessions have focused on Black history, anti-racism/oppression, white privilege/fragility, Indigeneity, and more; the sessions have helped inform our plans for Black History Month.
Black History Month Overview
Willie Impact Ally
Willie O’Ree was the first Black player to play in the NHL, and we are only now starting to understand the impact of his legacy . The documentary “Willie” highlights how O’Ree dedicated his time and energy to promote social justice in Black communities. We are proud to be teaming up with the National Hockey League and Classroom Champions, as a Willie Impact Ally, to tell the story of race in hockey through the lens of O’Ree’s experiences, and facilitate discussion and learning around social justice. Kids need to know the power they have to make the future fair, equitable and just. This digital platform will facilitate discussion and teach important social justice and anti-racism lessons.
To kick off the launch of the program on February 1st, Willie Impact partner Classroom Champions will be facilitating a virtual panel discussion for select schools and youth sports organizations across every Province in Canada. Panelists will include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Willie O’Ree, Sarah Nurse (PWHPA member and Canadian Olympian), Laurence Mathieu Leger (“Willie” co-producer and director), and Bryant McBride (“Willie” co-producer), hosted by Ron MacLean.
Additional Black History Month Initiatives
In addition to becoming a “Willie Impact Ally”, members of the PWHPA will continue the Anti-Racism sessions led by Dr. Courtney Szto. Each region will also be facilitating internal conversations, and taking the lead to accomplish the following Black History Month weekly initiatives:
- Highlight Black (hockey) history through virtual trivia
- Share the PWHPA platform to amplify Black voices
- Spotlight Black female players, coaches, and staff and their impacts on and off the ice
- Donate to Black businesses and social justice organizations
The PWHPA is committed to setting a standard for hockey moving forward when it comes to oppression, racism, and social injustice – our activism will not stop when Black History Month ends.