A hockey charity dedicated to helping Black girls thrive in the sport is trying to spread the word about its summer scholarship, after no one applied.
Three times a year, Black Girl Hockey Club offers scholarships up to $5,000 (U.S.) to help cover the costs of playing hockey for Black girls ages nine to 18.
The funds can cover costs for seasonal club fees, tournaments, equipment or hockey camp.
“We want to level the ice, so to speak, and give Black girls the opportunity to get involved in the sport at the youth level,” founder Renee Hess said in an email to the Star.
The April 30 deadline is closing in, and the group put a callout on social media for followers to nudge their favourite hockey teams and clubs to share the program.
While the organization is based in the U.S., it’s also open to players around the globe if they’re part of an international hockey club.
The COVID-19 pandemic response has no doubt affected sports leagues internationally, and could be the cause for fewer applications than normal.
And with the economic impact it’s having on families, a scholarship program like this can hopefully keep these girls in the game another season.
“We don’t know what the landscape of hockey will be in the coming months, but we do know that hockey players find a way to play and that ice time is expensive,” Hess said. “However we can help, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Black Girl Hockey Club was founded in 2018 by Hess, who wanted to create a community for Black women who love and play hockey, despite being underrepresented in the sport. The club partnered with NHL teams to distribute scholarships to Black girls involved in hockey.
Many stellar players in the game have been Black women, most notably Angela James, a Toronto-born mixed-race Black woman. She’s known as women’s hockey’s first superstar and was one of the first two women inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.
Talk about representation and racism in sports has reached a new peak since last year. Protests against racial violence led to professional athletes taking a stand and boycotting games, notably in the NBA.
As a result, Black players and other players of colour have been working more widely to combat racism in hockey.
Hess previously told the Star that she is hopeful that the change in demographic composition will lead to greater diversity among fans, players, coaches and executives.
“I think we can see already in youth hockey, there’s much more representation from minority communities,” Hess said.
And next, she’d like to see more teams hire minorities as executives and staff, to have a lasting impact from the offices to the ice.
“That’s my hope,” she said.
With files from Denis Gorman and Kevin McGran
Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering equity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.com
Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star