Former NHL forward Brandon Bochenski, now the Republican mayor of Grand Forks, North Dakota, thought it was inevitable that the same forces for social change that have pushed for progress in other sports would soon shape hockey.
“The NHL was the next target, I suppose,” he said. “It’s tough, because diversity is more than skin color and sexuality. I think a lot of people believe that.”
One reason the NHL has traditionally attracted a majority white audience and talent pool is that the game is most popular in countries with lengthy and sustained winters — such as Canada, Russia and Scandinavian countries — that are less racially diverse.
And in the United States, the sport’s high costs for skates, pads, sticks and other equipment and fees have also often made it a more exclusive sport, limited to affluent communities — an issue Bochenski said the league should be at the forefront of solving.
But Bochenski said the backgrounds of people in the sport are more varied than they first appear.
“I don’t think that hockey on the cover maybe looks as diverse as it really is,” he said. “If you get in there and you talk to guys, whether they come from different faiths, different families, different upbringings, how they treat people, there’s a lot more to it. So I think it frustrates people when it’s really just focused on only skin color and sexuality because you do have a pretty diverse group of people that are making up the NHL.”