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Avs 'Get Uncomfortable' with help from Black Girl Hockey Club

The Colorado Avalanche took the pledge to 'Get Uncomfortable' and disrupt racism in hockey to make it more welcoming for everyone.

DENVER — Hockey hasn't always been a comfortable place for all people. Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) was founded in 2018 by R. Renee Hess to make the sport a more welcoming place -- but first -- you have to pledge to get even more uncomfortable.

BGHC's signature campaign, Get Uncomfortable, is a campaign to disrupt racism on and off the ice and make hockey welcoming for everyone. 

Owyn Cooper is a volunteer with BGHC locally in Denver, helping with the Get Uncomfortable campaign .

"To get uncomfortable means to challenge things about yourself and how you've gone about your day-to-day to make sure you're doing what you can to make sure that black women and other BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) are safe and welcome and included in spaces," she said. "It sounds a bit intimidating, getting uncomfortable, but it really just means forcing yourself to reflect, forcing yourself to understand, to learn and listen."

Cooper urged her favorite team to take the pledge back in September 2020, but only initially heard from the Avalanche fans themselves.

Credit: KUSA Sports

"I tweeted my first thing like, 'hope the Avalanche take it!' and it wasn't really guided," she said.

Cooper focused her vision began a campaign called "100 days of memes" that sparked awareness for the pledge around Colorado.

"In my first month or so, we got another hundred or so Avalanche fans to take the pledge, which was really fantastic," she said.

But she still wasn't satisfied until she reached the actual team. It took a little more than a year, but in January 2022, her persistence paid off.

"The wait didn't matter to me, necessarily, it was the effort that everyone was doing within the organization to learn, to improve, and to make the space more welcoming for everybody," Cooper said.

The team's breakout performer Nazem Kadri is no stranger to discomfort in the sport. Kadri is a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, with internal goals to 'Change the Face of Hockey,' and 'Tape Out Hate.'

Credit: KUSA Sports

Cooper said his work is groundbreaking, but the onus is on his teammates to step up.

"When we talk about 'Getting Uncomfortable,' it means that the white players on the team also need to be involved in having those conversations," she said. "It's not fair to him to put him in a position to talk about his pain and his struggle when it's about the structures in place that have been enabled by white players."

That's where she sees the pledge working.

"To see them doing the work, to see them tweeting more about equity, to create more, to donate more, to put their money where their mouth is, to put their time where they can, to do that work, means the world to me."

The preliminary campaign objectives of the Get Uncomfortable pledge, as listed by BGHC, are:

  • ENCOURAGE the hockey community to make a welcoming space for Black girls and all BIPOC communities as players and fans of the sport.
  • EMPLOY and recruit BIPOC applicants to begin the process of diversifying hockey at all levels.
  • EDUCATE the hockey community on social justice and allyship with guidance from BIPOC leaders, anti-racism experts, advocates, players, and fans.

You can take the Pledge by visiting their website here: https://blackgirlhockeyclub.org/getuncomfortable/

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