Does reaching out matter? When a sport makes an effort to include a new audience, does it make a difference? It’s easy to be cynical, especially when confronted with Akim Aliu’s stark take-down of racism in hockey or the recent Brendan Liepsics scandal, complete with hints that his comments may be sadly commonplace in pro hockey. Suddenly, all the noble talk about inclusivity can feel like so much window dressing while age-old prejudice lives on.
It all came to a head 12 months ago. March 20, 2019. Kosice, Slovakia. Great Britain’s ice hockey team was approaching the end of its first World Championship campaign since 1994. The equation was simple. Defeat France, and the Brits would remain in the Elite Pool – something the country hadn’t achieved since 1950. Lose, and it would be a swift return to the second tier.