A new group of 27 NCAA Division I hockey players, coaches and administrators have been formed in an effort to improve the sport’s diversity and overall culture. College Hockey for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion officially came together last September and has been meeting regularly twice a month.
It represents the 11 Division I hockey conferences, including the Big Ten, NCHC and WCHA, both men and women leagues. Its mission is to “create positive cultural change across the sport through communication, education, allyship and advocacy.”
A website—www.collegehockey4DEI.com—is now up, and the committee is working on an educational video that teams can view.
“We are united in our goal and recognize there is work to be done,” said WCHA Women’s Commissioner and committee chair Jennifer Flowers during a Feb. 10 virtual news conference with her and six other committee members. Flowers and NCHC Commissioner Josh Fenton, who started a diversity task force in 2019, are among the five-member Working Group Leadership.
Ayodele Adeniye, a freshman hockey player at Alabama Huntsville, is the only Black player on the committee and one of three Black members, including Omaha Assistant Coach Paul Jerrard and Alaska Associate AD Terlynn Olds.
“I want to be a part of the active change,” Adeniye told reporters, briefly sharing his experience as a Black hockey player. “Some of the things people say are appalling,” he recalled of locker room behavior.
“I’m the only one in the locker room that’s not White,” added Bemidji State’s Tina Kampa, a native Columbian who grew up in Maple Grove. She said that she wants hockey to be “available to people from all different backgrounds.”
“I really want to work on changing the locker room culture,” reaffirmed Nikki Harnett of New Hampshire. “I grew up playing men’s and boys’ hockey, and I know what’s going on in those locker rooms.
“Hockey is predominately a White sport and has a blind eye to social injustice,” she continued. “I want this group to be active to ensure that college hockey is welcoming to everybody. I want our culture change to be so deep that it changes what people talk about when they think people aren’t listening.”
Diversity should be more than “a check the box scenario,” said Northeastern AD Jeff Konya.
Both Adeniye and Jerrard later talked to the MSR in separate interviews. “We are not going to change the past,” said Jerrard. “We can’t change a lot of that, but what we can do is educate and set a good example for future generations.”
Jerrard is one of two Black assistant coaches in the NCHC. The committee “is a great platform to use my job” to promote more diversity and inclusion in college hockey, he said. “I want to be an inspiration to kids of color who hope to coach at the NHL or college level someday.”
Flowers said the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis last May helped push forward the new DE&I committee. “It certainly…brought us all to the table,” she noted. “People were more willing to step up and have conversations.”
Jerrard told us, “Everybody was in a big rush to put something out. We…didn’t want to be too rushed. We wanted to do something that will have a long-lasting impression on our sport, especially at the collegiate level.”
Adeniye added that he wants to see more Blacks playing hockey and becoming fans as well.
“It is the greatest experience and [will] help us grow the game.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.