Condemn the issue or be the issue. Full stop.
Don’t pretend you don’t know why this is happening. Don’t try to make excuses for them. If you are not vocally and unequivocally against it then you are part of the problem.
Not all hockey fans are racist. In fact, most of us probably aren’t. But of all the team logos that could appear at a white supremacists demonstration, no one is really surprised that it’s from hockey. There’s a group of fans calling themselves the “Detroit Right Wings” marching through Charlottesville, VA with torches and shields bearing the Detroit Red Wings logo. The team has made a statement against it and is pursuing legal action but this isn’t going to change people’s minds. We’ve been dancing around this issue for decades: some NHL fans are racist and it’s time for it to stop.
Hockey is still thought of as one of the whitest sports. If you ask any average joe on the street to name a black football, baseball, or basketball player they’d have no problem. But hockey? Only about 50 active NHL players are of black, Asian, Latino, Arab/Middle Eastern, or Native American/First Nation (including 2017 first round draft picks). Willie O'Ree was the first black player to be called up the NHL by the Boston Bruins in 1958 - eleven years after Jackie Robison made headlines as the first African American MLB player. It wasn’t until 1982 that Val Jones became the first African American player in the NHL. Grant Fuhr was the first black player to win the Stanley Cup in 1984 with the Edmonton Oilers. He was also the first black player inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. The Hockey Hall of Fame was established in 1943 and it took sixty years for a black player to be inducted.
The league is taking steps to try to promote diversity with programs like Hockey is for Everyone but it isn’t enough. It is our responsibility as hockey fans to make the sport welcoming and safe for everyone. It doesn’t start with the league, it starts with us. It starts by saying that what is happening in Virginia and in other communities across North America is not okay and we will not accept it.
Hockey can and will be a sport where players and fans of any race, religion, gender, or orientation can feel safe and accepted and have fun. It can be because we will make it so. Hockey is not just for rich white boys. Love the sport. Grow the game. Know your history. Take no bullshit from anyone. Be part of the solution.