Kevin Weekes on NHL Addressing Racial Inequality: 'I Want to See People Be Real'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NV - JUNE 22:  Former NHL player Dominik Hasek (L) and NHL Network host Kevin Weekes present the Vezina Trophy during the 2016 NHL Awards at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former NHL goaltender Kevin Weekes, who is black, says he wants to see the league being "real" in addressing racial inequality. 

"I want to see people be real," Weekes on the ESPN on Ice podcast. "You're real about other things. Say, 'Hey, this is a problem.'

"We have qualified women and transgendered people and people of color ... and let's put the best people in positions.' Like [Alabama football coach] Nick Saban has said: His job is to get the right people on the bus and get the wrong people the heck off the bus. And that's it."

The NHL has the highest concentration of white players of any major professional sport in the United States. There are only 43 players of color on NHL rosters this season, an even smaller number of whom are black.

The NHL has faced several accusations of fostering a racist culture, which in many cases have discouraged players of color in continuing to pursue hockey. In 2018, then-Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly faced racist taunts in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks.

"The higher up I got in hockey, the more race started to become a factor," Weekes said. "And I started realizing that, for me, I was walking over Niagara Falls on a tightrope with no safety net."

Weekes, 45, played for the Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils during his NHL career. He later became the first black broadcaster in NHL history. There are no black coaches or general managers in the NHL.

"It starts with these clubs acknowledging the fact that there's a problem," Weekes said. "And there's been some problems with law enforcement, and that they have it in their city and they're not naive enough to think that it doesn't happen. For an example, an NHL club should be very selective, just as they are with their players to do hyper-screening of the law enforcement officials they use to work their venues or protect their players and their families. We'll be a lot more diligent in the people we select to work with us."