Akim Aliu, a vocal NHL critic and advocate for diversity, secures a tryout with the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate

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After years of feeling marginalized by the NHL and advocating for diversity in the sport, Akim Aliu is receiving another opportunity to play professional hockey, this time with the San Jose Sharks minor league team.

Sharks general manager Mike Grier announced at the league’s GM meetings in Florida on Wednesday that he extended Aliu a tryout contract with the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda for the remainder of the season.

Aliu, 34, who plays as a defenseman, confirmed the tryout via text to The Associated Press, mentioning that he had just landed in California. “It’s significant. I’ve always prided myself on adhering to moral standards and never faltering through difficult times,” Aliu wrote. “I feel extremely fortunate to receive this opportunity.”

Aliu’s last professional stint was after the 2019-20 season with Litvinov HC in the top league of the Czech Republic, where he recorded one goal and two assists in six games. Born in Nigeria to mixed-race parents and raised in Ukraine before settling in the Toronto suburbs, Aliu developed a passion for hockey.

Aliu is recognized as a journeyman minor leaguer who gained prominence for addressing racism in hockey. He garnered attention by making two impactful social media posts in November 2019, leading to Bill Peters’ sudden resignation as coach of the Calgary Flames.

Samuel Pahlsson (Credits: NFL)

Aliu disclosed that Peters had bullied him and used racist language during their time together in the minors a decade earlier. Peters resigned shortly after, and Aliu’s revelations prompted the NHL to implement a personal conduct policy to combat racism in the predominantly white sport.

The incident with Peters, coupled with experiencing hazing during junior hockey, led Aliu to believe that NHL teams had unfairly labeled him as a troublemaker, hampering his career progress.

Although Aliu had not formally retired from hockey, he co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, backed by players, to promote awareness and increase accessibility to hockey for minorities and disadvantaged youth.

Growing up in poverty, Aliu would purchase second-hand equipment and rely on public transportation to attend practices and games throughout Toronto.

Last year, Scholastic and the publishing company of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick released a graphic novel titled “Akim Aliu Dreamer: Growing Up Black in the World of Hockey,” highlighting Aliu’s life journey.


By Robert Jackson

An avid football fan (A red). And an Otaku by the definition of the word.

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