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Former NHL Player Locks Horns With GTHL Over Obstruction of Forward-Looking Organisation

Akim Aliu, the former NHL player who played for the Calgary Flames, has always been a staunch supporter of more diversity in ice hockey. Aliu wanted to create a better environment for the improperly represented and marginalized communities in the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL). For that, he attempted to create an organization that would ensure holistic inclusivity. However, according to him, his efforts were rendered futile by the GTHL and its AAA officials.

Aliu allegedly approached the GTHL officials in April 2021. The plan was to create an organization called the Toronto Dream. The said organization was to feature teams from the house league as well as AAA. However, it never came to fruition as it was denied by the GTHL.

The Toronto Dream that never came to life

Aliu, in interviews with TSN, expressed his disappointment with the situation, saying, “It’s extremely painful. I believe this is the type of work it will take to grow the game.” According to Aliu, the reason for the denial was that the expansion organization would eat into the revenue of other clubs. However, GTHL executive director Scott Oakman has come forward to say the reason was, “A number of organizations expressed concerns about adding a new organization to the current ecosystem at a time when [player] registration was its lowest.”

Akim Aliu wanted the AAA teams to be included, however, the same was refused. Aliu was not willing to move forward without the AAA teams. He said, “Having a commitment for AAA teams is so important because it would prove to kids of color they can aspire to get to the very top. I wanted to create a cradle-to-grave program where BIPOC kids in our house leagues can see our best kids on our AAA teams. We need for BIPOC kids to be able to see themselves as CEOs, as leaders, as team owners, as AAA hockey players.”

On the other hand, GTHL officials have simply cited technical reasons for not going ahead with the plan. The General Manager of the Toronto Nationals Hockey Club, Garry Punchard, revealed that it was the AAA organizations themselves who took the stand to not work with Aliu. In addition to this, many claimed that they already had diverse teams. Also, they were concerned that in the name of diversity, the new organization could poach their already existing players. But according to Akim Aliu, the GTHL environment has been toxic all along.

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Akim Aliu raises serious concerns

Aliu has always spoken out against racism in the GTHL. This particular allegation came, after a report from an independent committee conclusively proved, that racism and harassment were present in the GTHL. Expressing his despondency, Aliu said, “As upset as I am, I’m not really surprised. I think that after the GTHL found out how opposed the AAA teams were to this idea, it was never going to happen. But the GTHL didn’t want to say that… In the back of my mind, I tried to find optimism. Doing this would be such a good look for them, and I couldn’t believe they would be so foolish.”



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A post shared by Akim Aliu (@dreamer_aliu78)

The Dream was birthed when Akim Aliu, along with current and former NHL players, formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance in 2020. In 2021, Aliu approached Oakman with the idea and then gave a presentation before the GTHL’s 17-member board. During the presentation. Aliu explained how registration in hockey, especially amongst youngsters, was going down because of a lack of representation. However, Aliu alleges that instead of being heard, he was confronted with irrelevant questions. Ultimately, it turned out that the main reason was the rejection of the Dream was added competition to a thinning revenue stream.

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The post Former NHL Player Locks Horns With GTHL Over Obstruction of Forward-Looking Organisation appeared first on EssentiallySports.


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