NHL pushes puck up ice in bid to achieve Latino communities

Scott Gomez grew up among the many various cultures that amalgamate round Anchorage, Alaska. Race was one thing he by no means actually thought of, significantly on the ice.

The son of a Mexican American father and Colombian mom, Gomez heard a couple of disparaging remarks whereas arising via the junior {and professional} ranks, however the events had been uncommon.

He was a hockey participant and that is all that mattered.


“The sport was all the time accepting,” Gomez stated. “Whenever you’re in that locker room, you are one of many boys. Certain, you are going to get the occasional off-color joke, however lengthy as you give it again you are nice. It is by no means about race. It is about what you are able to do on the ice.”

Gomez was one of many first Latinos to achieve the NHL in 1999 — Invoice Guerin was the primary — and he performed 16 seasons for seven groups, profitable the Stanley Cup twice with New Jersey.

The variety of Latino gamers has elevated throughout the NHL, minor leagues and faculties in recent times, together with Auston Matthews, Max Pacioretty, Al Montoya and Raffi Torres.

Extra are on the way in which.

The NHL and groups throughout the league have made huge pushes to faucet a large potential fan base and develop Latino gamers — in the US and Mexico.

“It is a sport that’s about ardour, it’s about ability and it’s a sport that may actually carry collectively households and it may be multigeneration,” Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez stated. “I feel it’s a sport that’s primed to develop into part of the Latino group within the U.S., and it’s vital for the NHL to do it.”

The Coyotes have been on the forefront of the push, beginning within the entrance workplace.

Gutierrez turned the primary Latino president and CEO in NHL historical past when he was employed final 12 months. His boss, Alex Meruelo, turned the primary Latino majority proprietor when he purchased the Coyotes in 2019.

The Coyotes, like different groups within the Southwest, play in markets with large Latino populations and have developed applications to interact these communities.

Arizona created a Hispanic Advisory Board to enhance relationships with the Hispanic group after Meruelo purchased the workforce and has expanded its outreach.

The Coyotes have additionally created partnerships with Latino enterprise associations and have gone into faculty districts with dense Latino populations to introduce children to the Coyotes and hockey.

Arizona has held youth ball hockey clinics with organizations in areas with giant Latino populations, bringing sticks and balls that youngsters can take residence to proceed their curiosity within the sport. The Coyotes even have Spanish-language social media accounts to interact Latino followers.

“You consider Arizona, I completely need to go after the Latino group as a result of they’re the buyer base and they’re persevering with to develop, and they’re the labor power and the enterprise possession,” Gutierrez stated.

The efforts are rising outdoors the state as properly.

The NHL launched a Spanish-language platform on its web site in 2019, offering content material from native Spanish-speaking reporters The league additionally started celebrating Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month to amplify the tales of people that have made contributions to the sport.

The Dallas Stars hosted learn-to-play applications in Mexico Metropolis final season, and the Chicago Blackhawks launched Un Gol on the workforce web site with translated tales and movies.

The Anaheim Geese began offering supplies in Spanish for his or her SCORE program, which makes use of hockey themes to show faculty kids instructional themes, wholesome dwelling and character constructing.

The New Jersey Devils’ Hockey in NJ program has robust help in Hispanic communities, as does the Philadelphia Flyers’ Snider Hockey program and Tampa Bay’s Lightning Made.

The Golden Knights have Spanish-language social media channels — as do the San Jose Sharks — and run avenue clinics in Hispanic communities.

The Los Angeles Kings created a mannequin for his or her Jr. Kings program earlier than enjoying exhibition video games in Beijing in 2017 and have carried it into Mexico Metropolis. This system has expanded to 150 gamers and, throughout the pandemic, ran Zoom coaching with the membership with question-and-answer periods for the gamers, dad and mom and coaches.


The peewee Jr. Kings gained a nationwide championship of their division and 15 gamers have been invited to the workforce’s coaching camp in El Segundo, California, in August. The Kings additionally launched a ball hockey program with the 26 YMCAs throughout the town as a part of their fiftieth anniversary in Los Angeles in 2019.

“It is diversifying our attain for and understanding in a spot like Los Angeles, which is such a melting pot,” stated Mike Altieri, the Kings’ senior vp of promoting, communications and content material. “We had success in profitable two Stanley Cups and being a really influential voice within the market and we could not lose sight that there have been alternatives for progress all over the place and we have to diversify our viewers.”

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