The Ontario Hockey League has created a new role that they believe will help ensure that the game is inclusive for all players, staff and fans.
Rico Phillips has been named the Director of Cultural Diversity and Inclusion, a role in which he will establish and lead a committee to provide guidance and expertise to the league and its 20 teams.
“It will be a collective effort,” said Phillips, adding that the committee will include people of colour who used to play in the league.
“It will be something that each team can utilize their own communities.”
The Committee on Cultural Diversity and Inclusion will make recommendations and build upon the league’s current policies and player and staff training.
In 2010 Phillips founded the Flint Inner-City Youth Hockey Program in an effort to increase racial and socioeconomic inclusivity in minor hockey.
“I was on the ice for so many years, and I was the only person of colour on the ice, in the whole arena in many occasions, I was looking around and all I saw is the exact same person playing. In other words, the socio-economic level was the same, and it started to weigh on me,” said Phillips.
“This sport should be for everyone, not just for them.”
Phillips is a retired member of the City of Flint Fire Department. As he was working to become a firefighter, he was the athletic trainer of his high school hockey team and says that “sucked him right in” to the sport.
Now, in his new role, he’s hoping to open up a dialogue, and be part of the change.
“I want to be a person who can bring this topic to the forefront, to be openly discussed, and then we can work together to make whatever changes are necessary so that the OHL follows right along with the NHL, and all the other leagues that are trying to make the sport more inclusive to others.”
Phillips will report directly to commissioner David Branch.
The OHL’s diversity policy stressed that the league “strives for an environment that is free from unequal treatment on the basis of race, age, gender, creed, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status or disability — it also means that we strive for an environment where we value and benefit from the distinctiveness of each other.”
In 2019 he was awarded the NHL’s prestigious Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award for establishing the youth hockey program in Flint.
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