William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past 10 years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Tyrell Hill, a 17-year-old high school student whose “Diversity in Hockey Guidebook” project caught the attention of the NHL and Hockey Canada.
Tyrell Hill earned much more than an A+ for his class project.
The 17-year-old junior at Catholic Central High School in London, Ontario, authored a “Diversity in Hockey Guidebook” that got the attention of NHL officials, Hockey Canada and others in the sport.
NHL officials met with Hill to discuss his work and its recommendations, and Hockey Canada invited him to join their Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Group.
“When I started this project, I didn’t know what would come of it,” he said. “I didn’t think this was going to happen… The Hockey Canada thing is awesome. I will give me more opportunities to help everyone in the future.”
Hill’s guidebook is a comprehensive primer to influence minor hockey associations, players and stakeholders in the sport to ensure they are doing all they can to make it safe and inclusive for everyone.
Hill, who is Black and Indigenous, is a center for the London Junior Knights. He said he decided to create the guidebook for his school’s Leaders in Exercise and Athletics program because he wanted to create a lasting document so others don’t have to endure some of the indignities he has when playing hockey.
“I never want to hear a person say, ‘I’m not sure how I can make a difference or help,'” Hill wrote in the guidebook. “I want to share a perspective of a current youth BIPOC playing hockey in Canada that has thought of some ways to help.”
The eight-page guidebook chronicles recent racist incidents in youth and professional hockey; makes recommendations on how the sport can become more accepting; and provides tools for how people can make hockey more equitable and inclusive.
It also features photos and quotes about diversity and inclusion from notable current and former players of color including Minnesota Wild Defenseman matt dumbaCarolina Hurricanes defenseman Ethan BearFlorida Panthers forward Anthony Duclair and Hockey Hall of Fame forward Angela James.
“Read and learn as much as you can about what the BIPOC (and other marginalized) communities are trying to share,” Hill wrote. “Learn appropriate behavior and terminology and apply what you’ve learned when you are communicating. If you are an ally and want to be part of changing hockey culture you must also be a positive role model, communicate through spreading awareness, and through positive communication .”
Wendy Glover, Hill’s teacher who is also the academic and personal development advisor for London of the Ontario Hockey League, posted the guidebook on LinkedIn and shared it with NHL officials, who reached out to the teenager.
Rob Knesaurek, NHL Group Vice President for Youth Hockey and Industry Growth, said the NHL was so impressed with Hill’s work, it rewarded him with tickets to see his favorite team, the Detroit Red Wings, host the Toronto Maple Leafs at Little Caesars Arena on Feb 26. The Maple Leafs won 10-7.
“What Tyrell presented to us was great,” said Rob Knesaurek, NHL group vice president for youth hockey and industry growth. “I think everyone thinks this is an adult problem to solve. And we’re often remiss that we’re trying to create better environments for the next generation, but we seldom include them.”
Denise Pattyn, Hockey Canada vice president for People, Culture and Inclusion, saw Hill’s guidebook on LinkedIn and was moved by its quality “based on his age.”
“And the other piece was I’m forming the Hockey Canada advisory group and certainly looking for a move-forward mindset,” Pattyn said. “I really appreciated that you could read through that he had kind of the mindset that aligned with the group that I’m trying to form as it relates to how we get better.
“I think we have a lot to learn from kids like Tyrell, and the more he shares about his experiences and the more he shares about his experiences and/or his thoughts what could have made those experiences different for him, I think it will help us tremendously in shaping some of the actions we take moving forward.
Hill said the main motivation for creating the guidebook was to make sure his younger cousins don’t share the same negative experiences he occasionally did in hockey.
“Just name-calling, saying, ‘I’m not good at this’ or, like, ‘This is not my sport’ or ‘Go back to basketball’ or something,” he said. “That just kind of drives me to do better than everyone else. That’s kind of like a chip on my shoulder.”
The guidebook won’t be a one-and-done project. Hill is scheduled to discuss his work at a Hockey Leadership Conference in London, Ontario, on June 17.
“So instead of handing a project in, I grade it, and no one ever sees it, now this project can reach 500 kids,” Glover said, “and hopefully, they’ll ripple it off onto their teams and their communities and it will actually have a positive impact more than just in our school community.”
Photos: Detroit Red Wings, Tyrell Hill, Wendy Glover