Peter MacInnis, team president of the Don Mills Flyers of the GTHL. Peter MacInnis, team president of the Don Mills Flyers of the GTHL. (GTHLHockey on Facebook.)

Access to hockey for different minority groups has long been an issue. One group working to address that is the Hockey Diversity Alliance, a group founded in June 2020 by nine current and former NHL players. After the HDA launched some initial ball hockey and beyond programs in the Toronto area that year, former NHLer Akim Aliu (who co-heads that organization with Evander Kane) put together a group (including Tod Leiweke, part owner of the Seattle Kraken, and Ben Meiselas, one of Colin Kaepernick’s attorneys) to approach the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

That approach from Aliu and his group was to try to put together a comprehensive expansion organization called the Dream. The proposed organization would have had both house league and rep league teams within the GTHL, which is the world’s largest minor hockey organization. And while that approach didn’t lead to anything actually happening, it’s now led to a wild quote from Peter MacInnis, president of the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers.

TSN’s Rick Westhead has a detailed story on Aliu’s group’s approach to the GTHL. That story relays both sides’ versions of why dozens of meetings there over years never came to anything. A lot of it is about a dispute over the group getting a new team at the highest rep level (AAA) in addition to lower level teams, with other clubs concerned that would lead to top player losses to the new AAA team. But there are also discussions around competition for ice time at even the house levels, and talk about plenty of other issues. However, what really stands out in Westhead’s story is one particular quote from MacInnis on race and inclusion:

A quote from Don Mills Flyers president Peter MacInnis to TSN's Rick Westhead.
A quote from Don Mills Flyers president Peter MacInnis to TSN’s Rick Westhead.

Before any look at the substance of MacInnis’ remarks there, it’s worth discussing the particular term he uses for those of Asian descent. That word was once widely used in North America, but has strongly fallen out of favor over the last decades, with even U.S. federal legislation removing it from two past acts of Congress in 2016. So just calmly saying that on the record to a reporter under any circumstances is wild enough in its own right.

Beyond that, the actual comment itself has its own problems. As Westhead’s story notes there, under all of the discussions here, the Dream would have been limited in how many players they could have recruited from other GTHL teams. MacInnis’ comment is also missing much of what’s actually under discussion with diversity in hockey, where organizations like the HDA are trying to improve access (a large barrier in several ways, especially on the financial side given the expenses of hockey) for marginalized groups that make up small percentages of the current base of hockey players, which would produce more diversity in the sport overall. They’re also working to improve experiences for those players once they’re in the sport, and Aliu can certainly speak to the discrimination he faced throughout his career. While MacInnis (seen above in a 2018 GTHL Facebook video) can say “That’s not inclusion” if he wants, instead seemingly arguing in favor of current teams that have some small representation from minority communities (and promoting his organization’s small numbers of minority hires, which is an “I have Black friends!” line if there ever was one), his view certainly isn’t the only one there.

The story of Aliu’s approach to the GTHL and the GTHL’s rebuff of it is a complicated one. The league certainly doesn’t look good from Westhead’s piece, with many concerns raised about how they reacted to Aliu’s group and eventually chose not to let them in. But there are some points made on the league side about how this proposal would have affected existing teams, and it’s possible to argue that side from a more moderate position, as some of the voices in Westhead’s article do. MacInnis’ incredibly inflammatory and outdated quote sure wasn’t the way to do that, though, and that’s led to a whole lot more attention for this story than it might have received otherwise.

[TSN; image from GTHL Hockey on Facebook]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.