Tennessee State University is considering beginning the first HBCU hockey program in coordination with the Nashville Predators, the National Hockey League (NHL) franchise.
The school’s first step will be to establish a “feasibility committee” to gather information before making a decision, but the fact that the university is even considering creating a hockey program is a significant step.
The Black Lives Matter movement last summer came with an increased push to fund HBCUs, including a push to fund non-traditional HBCU sports. Gymnastics and volleyball programs are being considered. Additionally, NBA All-Star Stephen Curry provided Howard University with funding for the first six years of its new golf program.
Hockey could be the next sport HBCUs invest in.
This isn’t the first collaboration between Tennessee State University and the Nashville Predators. Last spring the two teamed up to raise money and awareness for student veterans and created The General’s Fund to help student veterans at the university whose educational benefits have either expired or have been exhausted.
Keyann Reaves, a Jackson, TN, native and military dependent, was the first to receive support from the fund and will use it to achieve her dream of becoming a pediatrician.
Tennessee State and the Predators also collaborated on the GUIDER (Growth, Understanding, Inclusion, Diversity, Equality and Representation) initiative, founded with the objective of diminishing the prevalence of social injustice.
Hockey is growing among both Black and Hispanic Americans. According to the NHL, there are at least 13 Black players on NCAA Division I and III women’s hockey rosters this season. In 2019, there were just four.
The Black Girls Hockey Club has also been paramount in making a push for diversity in hockey and its fans. The NHL has reached out to Renee Hess, who created the club, more than once to get her ideas on increasing diversity efforts.
Hess told the New York Times that there’s a simple way to get more Black Americans involved in the NHL.
“As a fan maybe I’m unique, but I have more expectations of executives and the people in power,” she said. “One thing we’re preaching to front offices is to hire more Black women, people of color, and LGBT people. If you want to get into the Black community, hire Black people. Nothing works better than having someone from the community doing that work.”
Bringing hockey to HBCUs would not only boost diversity efforts and participation, but could also lead to a new influx of American talent in the sport. Currently, there are fewer than 50 Black players in the league.