Aspiring professional hockey players want to make it to the National Hockey League.
The NHL is the world’s premier hockey league, which started in Montreal in 1917.
Currently headquartered in New York, the league now includes seven teams in Canada and 24 in the U.S.
Matt Dumba, who was born in Regina and raised in Calgary, is living the dream.
In 2012, he was drafted by the NHL team Minnesota Wild as a defenceman.
For Canadian Filipinos, Dumba’s entry into the league is a breakthrough: he was the first player of Filipino heritage to enter the NHL.
Now 26 years old, Dumba continues to break ground.
On August 1, 2020, the Minnesota Wild defenceman became the first NHL player to kneel for a national anthem during the league’s restart.
Dumba made a speech about social and racial justice prior to a game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Then, Dumba kneeled for "The Star Spangled Banner."
“During this pandemic something unexpected but long-overdue occurred: the world woke up to the existence of systematic racism and how deeply rooted it is within our society,” Dumba said in his speech.
“For those unaffected by systematic racism, or unaware, I’m sure that some of you believe that this topic has garnered too much attention during the last couple of months. But let me assure you, it has not. Racism is a man-made creation and all it does is deteriorate from our collective prosperity.”
“Racism is everywhere. Racism is everywhere, and we need to fight against it. On behalf of the NHL and the Hockey Diversity Alliance, we vow and promise to stand up for justice and fight for what is right.
“I know firsthand, as a minority playing the great game of hockey, the unexplainable and difficult challenges that come with it.
“The Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL want kids to feel safe, comfortable and free-minded every time they enter an arena.
“So I stand in front of you today on behalf of those groups and promise you that … we will fight against injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans because Black lives matter. Breonna Taylor’s life matters.
“Hockey is a great game. But it could be a whole lot greater and it starts with all of us,” Dumba said.
Dumba wore a Hockey Diversity Alliance shirt for the ceremony.
In June 2020, Dumba and six current and former Black NHL players announced the formation of the HDA, a group that seeks to make the game more inclusive.
The league is predominantly White, and Dumba is one of a few racially diverse players.
"Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey," the HDA wrote in a joint statement.
The practice of kneeling during the American national anthem was started in 2016 by a player in the National Football League or NFL in the U.S.
Then San Francisco 49ers’ Black quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to protest the treatment by police of African Americans.
Dumba’s father Charles is of Romanian, German and Russian descent.
His mother Treena was born in the Philippines. She was one of nine adopted children from all over the world by his grandmother Rose.
Following Dumba’s speech and taking a knee, his mother Treena told the Calgary Herald that there is a lot of work to do to achieve racial justice.
“With his speech, is this enough?” Treena asked in the newspaper’s report.
“It’s just the beginning,” Treena said. “It’s not enough. Doing one speech is not going to change the world overnight, but it’s a start to get people talking. It’s conversation.”