Preds Host Player Inclusion Coalition Launch at Ford Ice Center Bellevue

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Preds Host Player Inclusion Coalition Launch at Ford Ice Center Bellevue

In addition to an already exciting week of festivities, faces from around the hockey community gathered at Ford Ice Center Bellevue to announce the institution of a new NHL-backed diversity initiative.

The facility played host on Tuesday morning as 12 pro hockey players, including Ryan Reaves, Sarah Nurse and Abby Roque; NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman; and NHLPA Executive Director Marty Walsh announced the formal inception of the Player Inclusion Coalition.

Established with the intention of making hockey a more inclusive and accessible sport for all, the PIC consists of more than 20 members who share varying perspectives as players of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and supportive allies. The coalition is also co-chaired by NHL Alumni Anson Carter and former Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban, both of whom are already heavily involved in their own diversity initiatives.

A similar initiative, the Players Inclusion Committee, was formed in 2020 during the height of the modern social justice movement as a way to give suggestions to the NHL’s Executive Inclusion Council, but the group is ready to start making a change in a more active way.

“This is more than about recommendations,” Bettman said. “This is about specific action plans to grow the game and to make sure it is even more welcoming and inclusive.”

To help launch the new group, the NHL and NHLPA have granted the PIC $1 million in funding to aid future educational programs or to support existing organizations that align with the groups’ mission to serve underrepresented communities.

“The commitment is to provide the NHL with insights regarding the equality and inclusivity that only players can give us,” Bettman said. “With support and funding from the league and Players Association, we will develop and execute action plans to grow the game that we all love”.

Either motivated by personal experience or just striving to better their community, members agree that because of their position of influence, they have an incredible opportunity to promote inclusivity throughout the sport.

“It’s just a really important mindset that I think we need to be able to bring to the game of hockey,” former NHLer and PIC member Mark Fraser said. “We need to be able to help make this game what we know it can be for the future generations to come.”

SMASHVILLE was just the first stop on the coalition’s mission for inclusion. Following the announcement, the PIC members were joined by some of the top 2023 NHL Draft prospects as they took the ice for a hands-on clinic with a group of local youth players from the Preds CORE program.

Similarly to the Player Inclusion Coalition, CORE, or Creating Opportunities for Racial Equality, strives to share the sport of hockey, specifically with kids in the greater Nashville area.

“The number one goal [of CORE] is to really diversify the sport of hockey and really impact our local community,” Bridgestone Americas Sports Marketing Manager Caitlyn Ranson said. “Since 2021 we’ve been able to allow over 70 kids to come through, and that has covered the cost of equipment, food, as well as some really fun team events.”

The Player Inclusion Coalition concluded the clinic by making a generous donation of $10,000 to the CORE program in hopes of allowing even more Middle Tennessee youth to participate in the sport.

With a collective of diverse experiences and a mission for change, the Player Inclusion Coalition will continue to serve as an advocate for diversity throughout the professional hockey world. As they continue to create opportunities that allow kids and adults to enjoy the sport in a welcoming environment, the impact they’ve left on the Nashville hockey community will always be remembered as a first.

Source: Nashville Predators
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