Get uncomfortable

The new and improved Black Girl Hockey Club logo, just one of the visuals to go along with the new campaign. (Courtesy of BGHC / Designed by Jo Dabney)

We have all probably come across the saying: “Hockey is for everyone.” But that saying does not hold much truth when there is a lot of racism, sexism, homophobia, and exclusion in sports — especially in hockey. 

The Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) is an organization that decided to stand up to discriminatory exclusion in hockey, and take the uncomfortable steps towards creating a fun, safe, and inclusive space for individuals of all genders, races, and sexual orientations. 

This organization is a necessity in today’s society, especially with the new level of awareness that has awoken with regards to civil rights and police brutality among BIPOC individuals in Canada and the United States. 

In conversation with Dan Church, head coach of the York Lions Women’s Hockey team, we asked what he thought BGHC meant to the sports world. Church says: “Black Girl Hockey Club is an important organization for the sport of hockey and specifically women’s hockey because of its aim to promote an inclusive space for women in the game, specifically by focusing on women in the Black community (mothers, sisters, daughters, and friends) and their allies.” 

Creating space is a key aspect that a lot of people tend to forget. Racialized people, women, and the 2SLGBTQ+ community can all benefit from the efforts of the BGHC, all with emphasis on Black people.

“I think their voice is important for pushing the sport of ice hockey to be more inclusive by bringing attention to some of the exclusionary systems and practices to light,” says Church. 

The aim is to have more people take notice of the lack of inclusivity without having to cover it up in performative actions. In his description, Church wasn’t far off. When we asked the BGHC, they add: “We aim to grow the game of hockey in communities across North America. Sports, including hockey, will benefit from reaching fan bases that they haven’t in the past. BGHC builds towards this goal by creating spaces for Black women to flourish in the hockey fandom.” 

The hockey and sports community can take notes from the BGHC in this respect, because they are on the right path towards changing energy in hockey.

The BGHC is working towards the overall goal of involving and encouraging Black girls and all BIPOC communities as fans, players, and viewers of the sport. They aim to foster that positive environment for BIPOC, whether that be from playing the sport or just watching it. 

Former York Lions wrestler Mary Adwarka sheds some light on the type of community such an organization can make. “Black people benefit from a shared community when it comes to their love of sports in so many positive ways. Sports in itself is a phenomenon that brings unity among people despite other interests.

“Black people can show everyone what they are capable of and where racial injustices are brought to the forefront.” 

“In today’s sports, so many of the top athletes are from the Black community, and as someone who watches sports, this is so important and empowering. It shows us that we too, despite how society portrays and treats us, are more than capable of being something so much bigger,” Adwarka continues.

Representation is a key takeaway from what this organization does. Church explains that the BGHC “provides a voice to the collective concerns and ideals of Black hockey players and fans.” This is just one way that they have made their mark in the world of sports. 

BGHC is currently putting themselves and the work they do on a global front. The efforts to show folks that they are welcome and wanted in a sports environment go a very long way. 

York Lions track athlete Ireneh Omere refers to sport as a stage where “Black people can show everyone what they are capable of and where racial injustices are brought to the forefront.” 

Omere goes on to say, “A shared community in the world of sports fosters hope that being Black won’t be a hindrance to great accomplishments. lt ignites the fighting spirit of everyone who loves sport and believes equitable opportunities belong in sport. It is a safe, understanding space where we can celebrate accomplishments, share our grievances, support those who need support, and just enjoy the company.” 

This drive and determination is what makes such a community so important.

Some of the other objectives of the BGHC is further involvement of BIPOC members through their volunteer opportunities. This is also the case for their scholarship program, in which they “awarded over $10,000 to four girls in the fall,” according to Isabel Graham, administrative volunteer with the BGHC. 

The Club wants to educate individuals on social justice and allyship. To accomplish this, they “launched the ‘Get Uncomfortable’ pledge in October, which strives to disrupt racism on and off the ice,” continues Graham. 

This pledge has been a step towards lifting the weight and burden of oppression and inequality off of BIPOC members’ shoulders. It has been signed by over 4,000 people, including two NHL teams. 

Hockey is a great sport and should be experienced by everyone. Let us join together, unite our powers, and fight towards making hockey a safer and more inclusive sport by welcoming and representing people of any race, gender, sexual orientation, and age. 

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By Rozhan Khalajzadeh

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