More and more, athletes and coaches around the sports world are increasing their commitment to positive cultural changes while making their spheres more welcoming.
The same goes for college hockey, including in the NCHC.
League commissioner Josh Fenton, Omaha assistant coach Paul Jerrard and North Dakota forward Jasper Weatherby are each involved in College Hockey for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, a task force that was unveiled earlier this month but has been meeting since last summer.
NCHC representatives on the task force have been sharing in the media their experiences with the group so far. Weatherby last week spoke with the Grand Forks Herald, and this Wednesday, Jerrard told USCHO about how his involvement with the task force began.
“Josh Fenton talked to me about it, and they wanted to get representation from across college hockey and the different leagues,” Jerrard said. “With some of the stuff that went on in the world outside of COVID, with race issues that happened, everybody wanted to get something done, and I was happy to have that opportunity.
“I really enjoy it, and we have meetings once a week and just talk about a lot of different things, and we have a plan to help grow our game and help people understand that our game is welcoming. Our group wants to make a lasting impression throughout college hockey. Everybody in our group is committed to the long haul and seeing it through and making our game more inclusive for everybody.”
In all, 27 individuals representing the 11 NCAA Division I college hockey conferences are involved in the task force. So far, the group’s Zoom calls have often centered on sharing stories about members’ backgrounds.
“We do a lot of listening to each other, and talk and share ideas about how we want to make an impact,” Jerrard said. “We’ve talked about partnering with other outside entities to help get our message out a little bit more, but it’s just great to have that fellowship and listen to people’s stories.
“Everybody has a different story, but there are a lot of similarities in the stories that we share, and we take that into account with how we want to approach things going forward.”
College Hockey for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion’s mission statement indicates that the group “is dedicated to creating positive cultural change across our sport through communication, education, allyship, and advocacy. Together we are working for a better tomorrow, one shift at a time.”
With people of varying ethnicities and sexual orientations on board, identifying what’s in the shaded area of the proverbial Venn diagram helps the group decide what antiracist, antisexist and additional progressive directions to take.
“It’s just the commonalities that everyone has in their stories,” Jerrard said. “People might have had microaggressions in their heads when they were younger, and you learn about how people got through all that stuff.
“We all have similar stories where we can empathize with people, and that helps you increase the connection you have with these people, because we’ve all kind of been through the same things growing up, just in different avenues.
“One of the biggest things for me, because I grew up in Canada, it’s a lot different from growing up as a person of color in the U.S., and I’m finding that out through the difficulties and the segregation and the policies that have been put in place to oppress a lot of people of color in a lot of these cities,” Jerrard continued. “I’m learning a lot just about why the world is the way it is right now.”
Jerrard has plenty of praise for Weatherby, a white student-athlete with a Black adopted brother from Costa Rica who was found to be the descendant of an enslaved Nigerian, who was taken to Jamaica.
Weatherby’s grandparents, Ralph Temple and Ann Macrory, were both heavily-involved civil rights lawyers, and Weatherby’s mother, Lucinda, protested apartheid at the South African embassy in Washington.
Weatherby and UND teammate Jacob Bernard-Docker kneeled during the U.S. national anthem before the Fighting Hawks’ season opener Dec. 2, protesting against racial injustices and inequities.
“He brings interesting insight,” Jerrard said of Weatherby. “He knows racism firsthand, coming from a blended family, and he’s seen some things so he can share and empathize.
“One of the most important things for us is that we have people from a bunch of different races on our committee, and mixed-race people, but it’s just as important to have Caucasian people stand up and stand beside us. It gives us a lot more credibility, and that we all want to live harmoniously and play this game harmoniously and have it be welcoming for everybody.”
Jerrard also noted Fenton’s involvement with the task force, sitting in on weekly meetings.
“He’s dialed in like everybody there,” Jerrard said. “We’ve got College Hockey, Inc., on there, we’ve got coaches, we’ve got athletic directors, and we’ve got a lot of student-athletes. We have a well-rounded mix of people from all over men’s hockey and women’s hockey.”
More information on the College Hockey for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion task force can be found at the group’s website, collegehockey4DEI.com.
“We’re kicking around a lot of ideas,” Jerrard said. “We want to do something that will be meaningful and impactful, so we’re in no rush to put anything out.
“We made a huge step with the press (conference on Feb. 10) and our website, so we’re just going to continue to meet every couple weeks and share ideas, and I’m sure once a good idea comes out, we can’t wait to hunt it down.”
North Dakota retains Penrose Cup
With two games to spare, North Dakota won its second consecutive NCHC regular-season championship Saturday with a 7-1 home win over Omaha.
After downing the Mavericks 4-1 on Friday in the teams’ series opener in Grand Forks, UND got at least one point apiece from 12 different players Saturday. Collin Adams had a three-point night with two goals and an assist, while Bernard-Docker, Weatherby, Jordan Kawaguchi, Shane Pinto, and Jake Sanderson all had two points in the win. This came after Bernard-Docker, Weatherby, Jackson Keane and Tyler Kleven all scored Friday.
Adams and Bernard-Docker were named this Monday as the NCHC’s offensive and defensive players of the week, respectively.
This is the fourth time that UND has earned the Penrose Cup in the eight seasons that the NCHC has been around. UND has won 19 league titles all-time, between the WCHA and the NCHC.
UND (17-4-1) visits Omaha this Friday and will host the fourth-place Mavericks (13-8-1) again March 5.