MacEwan alumnus spearheads diversity, equity, and inclusion for Hockey Canada

by , | Jan 3, 2024 | Features, In The Mag!, News | 0 comments

In recent years, Hockey Canada has been involved in multiple scandals, leaving stakeholders to depend on new diversity, equity and inclusion frameworks. Some of the biggest scandals over the past few years, from sexual misconduct to misused national funds, have led us to where we are now. Hockey Canada looks ready for its next steps forward. 

MacEwan University’s alumnus and vice-president of Hockey Canada’s EDI, Irfan Chaudhry, has taken on a lead role in these initiatives. Hockey Canada aims to make all games — whether on the street, frozen pond, your hometown barn, or in P.E. class — a sport for everyone.

Chaudhry is also the former director of the Office of Human Rights and Office of Sexual Violence Education Prevention and Response at MacEwan. With an extensive background in sports bias, hate-motivated crimes and assaults, as well as a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion, his goals have begun a new wave of comprehensive sports in Canada. 

Growing up, Chaudhry’s passion for hockey started very early. “I moved to Canada when I was five, so I had no idea what even a hockey stick or ice hockey was,” he said. “I still distinctly remember my first interaction with the NHL. We’d ….turned on the TV, and the first thing I saw was Theo Fleury sliding down the ice. I had excitement, and I had no idea what the hell was going on, but it looked pretty cool and pretty fun.”

Even though Chaudhry didn’t play ice hockey on a team until his mid-twenties, his love for the sport prevailed throughout his life. And now that the inclusivity and diversity within hockey in Canada have been caught in crossfire, he’s been able to shine in the community.


Hockey Canada’s new goals give everyone the chance to consider what hockey means to them and how they can become a part of the organization’s transformation.


“During the pandemic, there was a lot of work being done around refreshing and reframing what hockey means for people,” he says. Every person’s idea may vary, but Chaudhry says that it all starts with “rethinking what hockey involvement could be like.” Noting that the hockey image should scale beyond a traditional able-bodied and ice-bound version that is traditionally thought of when you imagine Canada’s favourite pastime. 

Hockey Canada’s new goals give everyone the chance to consider what hockey means to them and how they can become a part of the organization’s transformation. “When I heard that tagline ‘making hockey more,’ it was very, very broad in terms of application,” Chaudhry says. “But, a lot of the imagery that was being connected to it internally was around the diversity and inclusion of a broader demographic.” 

This means that, for both players and fans alike, the ideas around what hockey is supposed to be can turn into what hockey is, regardless of gender, race, beliefs, socio-economic standing, or ability.

The overall goal is to make the sport “more welcoming, more inclusive, and more accessible,” Chaudhry says. “And, I think those three parameters, regardless of someone’s identity or background, are the key drivers.” 

Similarly, the MacEwan Griffins men’s hockey coach, Zach Dailey, explains how the journey of inclusivity can be sparked for younger generations. “For me, it starts before we get in the dressing room,” he says. And that needs to carry onto the ice. 

Hockey continually lags behind other North American sports in its efforts to make the game for everyone. Whether a coach, teammate, or spectator, the hockey community is one that has to keep a watchful eye on bigotry within the sport. And, for players, Dailey adds, any fights on the ice should be purely physical and have nothing to do with exclusion or the people playing in the game.

Yet, these changes aren’t linear, and the learning process is continuous. “People make mistakes,” the men’s hockey coach says. But, he says, “you have to understand and give people a chance to learn and to grow, and to get better.” 

When asked about the biggest changes seen in the past few years, Dailey pointed out one noticeable change: “I would say the language piece is probably the biggest difference. Just the words that are used on a regular basis have become much more acceptable. . ..  that’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he says. However, even with the ball rolling, it seems like this is just one step of many. 

While Hockey is a mainstay in Canadian culture, it is clear that hockey’s foundations have not expanded to meet the multicultural mosaic that Canada is considered today. “I think they are going in the right direction, but there is a lot of work to do,” Dailey adds. “I definitely think it’s important for [sic] having BIPOC kids feel comfortable in the sport.” 


 “I would say the language piece is probably the biggest difference. Just the words that are used on a regular basis have become much more acceptable. . ..  that’s definitely a step in the right direction,”

Zach Dailey, MacEwan Griffins men’s hockey coach


While discussing the future, Chaudhry paints a picture that is hopeful. Yet, it’s multifaceted in nature and, at its core, will be a learning experience for everyone. “Some things may need more education or awareness in one area over another area.” 

Chaudhry’s changes will not take effect overnight but should give his team a strong foundation. “Everyone’s working towards the same goal,” he says. Whether leadership, staff, or member organizations, we all have “that common shared space of interest.” 

There’s a strong focus on “making sure we are doing the right thing and being inclusive,” Dailey says. “So [it’s] definitely a positive step.” But, moving forward, it’s going to be a team effort. Making it clear that actions must be taken.

“It’s actions that speak louder than words,” Dailey says. “So, when people are doing the right things, it’s better than [just] saying the right things.” 

For the future of ice hockey in the country, Chaudhry is hopeful to see these changes and the ways in which they’re implemented. He explains that the goal is to have a legacy to look back on that will be “a solid foundation for the next group of individuals to build upon.”. It may not be a quick or easy fix, but it’s one that’s integral to the sport. “It’s how we get there that’s gonna be the journey,” he says.

And for hockey in Canada, this is just the start.


Graphic by Sam Poier

Tyler Pitre

The Griff

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