The annual BGC alumni induction ceremony is always an awesome time for many reasons. Here are some of the reasons why the BGC induction ceremony is awesome:

Being a woman of color entering, and a member of, the highly competitive hockey community is hard enough without the added stigmas and stereotypes that come with being a woman of color. It’s even harder when this woman of color is a Black female athlete. But, it’s about to get a hell of a lot easier.

If you want to kick-start your weekend, join us for an event hosted by Black Girl Hockey Club, a group that brings together the Black community and the hockey community in Philadelphia.

Renee Hess is an avid hockey player from Riverside, California. Every time she went to an Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings game, she couldn’t help but notice: There have never been two black women sitting together. Hess spoke with other black women on social media and heard similar anecdotes: Sometimes they did not feel comfortable entering the arena because they were afraid of feeling alone or getting strange looks that showed they did not belong. So in 2018, Hess hosted a meeting of the club she called the Black Girl Hockey Club during a Washington Capitals game. I had no expectations, Hess said. I just wanted to build a community. After more than 40 women came to the first meeting, she organized another meeting in 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. Shortly thereafter, the House of Representatives introduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Willie O’Rea, the NHL’s first black player. Hess had been invited to Washington, D.C., for an event. At first I thought: Why was I invited? she said. Who am I? His second thought: How can I afford it? I paid for my own trip to Washington D.C. and Nashville, but I couldn’t afford to go back, says Hess, who was an adjunct professor and freelance writer at the time. So I posted it on social media: I really want to go to this event, it seems cool to represent the country, can you help me raise money for airfare and accommodation? And the people did. 2 Connected Ms. Hess was flattered, but also inspired by the importance of the support group, just to introduce them and give them a voice. I spent the rest of 2019 thinking about this: What can I do for this audience? she said. That group of people who are willing to give not only their vote, but their money. Two years later, she had no idea how big the Black Girl Hockey Club would become. Hess is now registered as a non-profit organization and has established a scholarship program. So far, it has awarded $27,000 in scholarships to 26 black girls from around the world, from Winnipeg to Nairobi to California. This summer BGHC is implementing a mentorship program (led and inspired by Metropolitan Riveters activist Saroya Tinker). Hess also launched the Get Uncomfortable Pledge, which aims to reach out to allies and get people who say they support anti-racism in hockey to put their money where their mouth is, she says. More than 6,000 people have signed the pledge, including many employees, executives and players from NHL teams. Hess also became one of three finalists for the NHL’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. If she wins, she gets $25,000. #ICYMI Congratulations to our #BGHC summer fellows! !! What an incredible group of athletes. We can’t wait to see what they do next! – Black Girl Hockey Club (@BlackGirlHockey) June 5, 2021 The NHL’s recognition – and the league’s sense of support behind the scenes – appears to be an important step for Hess. Hockey remains one of the most white-dominated sports in the world. There are no black owners, team presidents, general managers or head coaches in the NHL. About 95% of the players in the league are white. I think the NHL is listening and it’s a big change from what they were doing five years ago, Hess said. And they make these incremental changes of what we’ve been talking about. Ms. Hess said she has noticed a gradual change in advertising. I see more black people in hockey commercials than I’ve ever seen in my life, she said. Also, teams support their black players and make sure they are on the radar. It balances on the line between tokenism and commercialism, because there’s so little of it, but it’s a breath of fresh air for black viewers. So I think it’s a positive thing to put these black players in the spotlight. They are there, they are doing the work, they deserve the recognition. Hess cites a recent conversation she had with Kings scout Blake Bolden, the first black woman to hold the position. She said: I don’t want to be vulgar, but you have to see it to believe it, says Hess. And I’m like: No, girl, it’s not vulgar because it’s just the truth. How many black girls have been inspired by seeing Blake Bolden, Sarah Nurse or Saroya Tinker on the ice? Representation is so important. Blake Bolden, a former professional ice hockey player, now works as a scout for the Los Angeles Kings, making her the first black woman to hold this position with an NHL team. Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images More and more hockey players are turning to Hess. The main thing she’s trying to get across is the power they have. Whether you’re in the ticketing business or you’re the general manager of the team, you have the power, Hess said. You don’t have to say that: We have solved the problem of racism because it is impossible. But you can hire black people in your office. You can recruit employees in an HBCU. You can address the wage gap between white, brown and black women in the office. It’s amazing how many white people in hockey don’t have black friends. And I am: I’ll be your black friend! During a recent digital event, one of the attendees wrote to Hess how informative and enlightening the session had been. In passing, the man wrote that he had never been surrounded by so many black people. That surprises me, she said. But I’m happy to be that source. I would love to see the Black Girl Hockey Club become such a resource, as long as our audience understands that our main goal is to support and promote black women. We don’t discriminate, we just focus. And that’s our main goal. Hess, who is now assistant director of service learning at La Sierra University, is currently working on a book about black women in hockey. The aspect of the BGHC that she enjoys the most is the scholarship program. BGHC, which now has a board of directors, applied for nonprofit status in late 2019. Then COVID-19 struck, and they heard nothing more from the federal government until July 2020. Upon approval, the first scholarship was awarded to Talia Rose, age 11, from Ontario. Rose, the goalie, got $5,000 and a full kit. And then the BGHC awarded more and more scholarships, including a new group of 14 announced last week. Hess usually hosts a Christmas party at Zoom for the scholarship recipients, their parents and the scholarship committee. After the latest incident, one of the mothers told Hess: My daughter gained a lot more self-confidence when she knew she had this scholarship and that she was recognized. She is very quiet, she doesn’t have many friends other than her hockey friends, and that is very important to her. I’ve heard stories of girls who are the only black girl on their team or in their league, they’ve never played with other black girls or even met other black girls who play hockey, Hess said. Suddenly they find themselves in her Zoom room with 10 other girls playing hockey. It’s just very, very unusual. Hess always makes sure the girls share Instagram handles so they can keep in touch. And who knows, maybe one day they’ll attend an NHL game together.In January, Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) was established in Washington, D.C. on January 1, 2015. The club was founded by a group of women who have played hockey throughout their lives. They are a group of individuals with various experiences that believe in the power of hockey to bring people together.. Read more about black girl hockey club facebook and let us know what you think.

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