Proposal: Hockey Inclusion Conference. Hockey needs to be for everyone.

When Josh Weissbock asked what could have been done better to engage and promote the inclusion of women at the Vancouver Hockey Analytics Conference (VanHAC), I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t have one because Josh had done all the “right” things in my mind. He reached out to women, personally encouraging them to submit proposals. He followed up with those women to verify their status (in at least one case, offered to extend the submission date to accommodate real life).

As I tried to find an answer to his question, it dawned on me. Maybe the reason there’s not an actively engaged minority presence is because as a whole, women and non-cis men are still regularly excluded when it comes to the world of hockey. And answering “how do we fix that” is where we truly need to start.

The idea was born and the dream began. Expand upon the Hockey is for Everyone initiative by focusing on inclusion, diversity, and accessibility for those who are not cisgender males. Have a conference where there’s a point made to have speakers anything other than that. Allow for a “meet and greet” among attendees and panelists, as well as the opportunity to have access to talk with those in media, leagues, and more.

Ideally, this would take place in the Spring/Summer of 2018. Preferably on the West Coast (Seattle? Las Vegas? To be determined.) A location that is easily affordable to travel to by most is key. Speakers would range from women of the NWHL/CWHL, minorities who play in men’s leagues, women who work in the front office, analytics, social media, journalism, etc.

Hopefully this event would be of interest to both the general and more serious fan. From those who want to “break in” to the hockey world (whether as media, player, management, analyst, or more) to those who just want to feel accepted attending a game.

The barrier in hockey needs to be broken down. The league needs to take the next step so fans don’t feel like hockey isn’t a safe space (Stanley Cup of Chowder), like teams are doing the bare minimum to recognize You Can Play/Hockey is for Everyone nights (Five for Howling), and like Hockey is for Everyone isn’t overlooked and forgotten (Broadstreet Hockey, Dallas News).

I hope the idea of this event starts the conversation of restructuring the thought process around hockey culture. Hockey really should be for everyone, and it’s far past time that it is. If the NHL won’t make change happen, we will.

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