Blake’s Takes: The Move to Phase 3

This week, I’ll share my thoughts on the founding of The Hockey Diversity Alliance. Hopefully, this group can much-needed change in regard to diversity in the hockey community. In other news, the league also announced a date to move into Phase 3 which will allow teams to host training camp.

Stay safe out there everyone!

1. The Birth of The Hockey Diversity Alliance

Last Monday,the NHL announced the formation of The Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA). The group, made up of active and recently-retired NHL players, was created to “eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey.” The HDA is made up of seven players, all black Canadians, Akim Aliu, Evander Kane, Matt Dumba, Chris Stewart, Joel Ward, Trevor Daley, and Wayne Simmonds. Aliu and Kane are the co-heads of the group, with the rest of the players making up the executive committee.

According to a TSN report, one of the HDA’s other goals is to establish a mentorship program for players of color targeted by racial slurs. A website and charity are also in the works. Also, according to an report, the HDA will operate independently of the NHL.

That’s important. If the HDA can operate independently, they won’t have to relent to any pressure by the NHL. They can feel free to use their voice how they see fit and ensure their message is clear.

It’s pretty obvious that this is a welcome and necessary action taken by the NHL players of color. If society and government have taught us anything in the last few weeks, it’s that we can’t rely on them or any organization to make a change. It’s most effective when it’s driven by those with a voice. These seven players have a louder voice than they’ve ever had right now. It’s great to see them mobilize to use it.
The HDA could make lasting change, and not just in the NHL, but in all levels of hockey in North America. I’ll be closely following their progress and am excited that black players have a voice in hockey.

2. The New Mayor of Grand Forks, ND

Brandon Bochenski (right) with Astana Barys in 2018-19 [Photo Credit: NHL]
Brandon Bochenski is the new mayor of Grand Forks, ND. I didn’t know who that was when I read this article on I’m glad I read it. Bochenski was born in Blaine, MN, and played at the University of North Dakota. After a successful career at UND, Bochenski enjoyed stints in the NHL, AHL, and played eight years in the KHL with Barys Astana in Kazakhstan. Not only did Bochenski play in Kazakhstan, he even became a Kazakhstan international and captained the Kazakhstan national team.

Bochenski enjoyed little success in the NHL and quite a bit in the KHL. He scored 68 points in 156 NHL games. In the KHL, he scored 406 points in 412 games. But, this is about his political career.

Bochenski returned home in 2019 after he retired from pro hockey. He started working in real estate before chasing his political aspirations. He’s now the mayor of the town he lived in while playing college hockey.

With everything going on in the country right now, I figured this would be a cool hockey-related story that people can smile at. Congrats to Bochenski for winning his election and I bet he’ll use his political clout to score tickets to UND hockey games.

3. Moving Into Phase 3

Last Thursday, the league issued a statement announcing that Phase 3 of the Return to Play plan will begin on Friday, July 10th. Phase 3 consists of formal training camps taking place. The next phase, Phase 4, will mark the resumption of real games. The league did not announce the length of training camp or when Phase 4 will begin.

This is huge news! I’ll be honest, for all the shit I give the NHL, they’ve handled this restart amidst COVID-19 better than any other league. Not only will they return faster than the other leagues, but it also seems as if the NHL, the Board of Governors, and the NHLPA have been on the same page through it all. I’ve heard very little pushback from any party; unlike the NBA and MLB ,which are at their own stages of returning at the moment.

I give huge props to the NHL and their staff for maneuvering the restart during the pandemic and the various racial injustices occurring around the country. They have not backed down from getting involved in the Black Lives Matter movement while ensuring games can be played safely in the next few months. This could be a landmark summer for the NHL and their commitment to doing things the right way.

4. GTHL Releases Penalty Info Regarding Slurs

Another TSN bomb drop. Last week, the GTHL released their statistics for the number of penalties assessed for discriminatory slurs over the last three seasons. According to the TSN report,

“The league recorded five gross misconduct penalties last season for racist language. In total, there were 197 misconduct penalties given for slurs based on gender (172), sexual orientation (16), disability (three) and religion (one) last season.”

The GTHL said the gender category includes “slurs and taunts such as ‘you play like a girl’ and other more graphic comments.”

In the past three seasons, GTHL referees have called penalties for 20 racial slurs.

The GTHL came under fire a few weeks ago after Myles Douglas, a black player for the North York Rangers said he had been the victim of many racial slurs. Douglas made those comments in this interview with TSN and San Jose Sharks’ forward Evander Kane.

Let’s look at those numbers more closely. 172 penalties assessed. That’s about 57 a season. There are quite a few teams in the GTHL, so I’d imagine those 172 penalties were called over the course of over 1,000 games across a large range of age groups.

And an important note, that’s only the number of penalties assessed. It’s safe to say that if there were 172 penalties called, the number of slurs used is significantly higher.

I’d hope the GTHL could lower this number to zero. 172 is far too many. These are kids we’re talking about. They need to be protected while they’re on the ice. The league did announce that they will host a town hall meeting for all involved to discuss discriminatory issues. That can’t come soon enough. Something needs to be done about this before those kids hit the ice again.

5. Reaves Signs Extension with Vegas

Ryan Reaves is one of the funniest and toughest guys in the league. He provides some much-needed personality in a league full of party poopers. Yesterday, Reaves announced he had signed a two-year extension with the Golden Knights with this video.

This video had me dying. I had no idea what Reaves was going to say until he mentioned his contract at the end. The extension will keep Reaves in Vegas for two additional seasons.

Reaves has become a fan-favorite in Vegas because of his boisterous personality and ability to drop the gloves. Even though the odds he wins a scoring title are very very slim, it wouldn’t surprise me if he scored a few big goals to help the Knights get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Let’s hope Reaves can keep putting pucks in the back of the net so we can continue to enjoy his personality. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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