Cultural Change

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    • The Arizona Coyotes hire Xavier Gutierrez as the first Latino team president and CEO in the NHL.

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Just days after the NHL announced the creation of four commissions on diversity, several minority hockey players have launched the independent Hockey Diversity Alliance. The alliance, made up of seven former or current Black NHLers and led by Akim Aliu and Evander Kane, aims to “confront hockey’s culture of intolerance and promote diversity at all levels of the game.”

Discussions around forming the group started following Aliu’s Players’ Tribune article in May in which he spoke about racism he faced playing the sport. That accelerated in recent weeks as the national conversation around racism was heightened. The group even met with Colin Kaepernick recently. “We understand the culture in hockey and we want to help be a part of that change,” Kane said. “We are hopefully going to be able to expedite that change.”

A focus on diversity is happening at the team executive level as well, as Xavier Gutierrez is slated to become the first Latino club president and chief executive officer in the NHL with his hire by the Arizona Coyotes. It’s the second year in a row that the Coyotes have marked a first in the NHL – Alex Meruelo became the league’s first Latino owner when he bought the team in June 2019. Gutierrez most recently served as managing director of financial firm Clearlake Capital Group, and had previously been the chief investment officer of Meruelo’s holding company.

With 31% of Arizona’s population identifying as Hispanic, the new leadership group will likely impact how the predominantly white sport continues to grow in the state. Arizona hockey registrations with USA Hockey grew 22.6% the past five years, compared to 6.5% nationally.