Hockey makes progress in midst of awakening about racism

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2007, file photo, Nashville Predators center Jerred Smithson (25) clears the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Anson Carter, center, in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn. Carter played a decade in the NHL and has since become an analyst for NBC Sports, which will launch Hockey Culture with him at the center of the show. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2007, file photo, Nashville Predators center Jerred Smithson (25) clears the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Anson Carter, center, in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Nashville, Tenn. Carter played a decade in the NHL and has since become an analyst for NBC Sports, which will launch Hockey Culture with him at the center of the show. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Anson Carter filled his time in pandemic isolation walking 11 miles a day, sometimes with his dogs, around his Atlanta neighborhood.

When video surfaced of another Black man, Ahmaud Arbery, being shot and killed in nearby Glynn County, Georgia, Carter found himself looking over his shoulder. To use a hockey term from his playing days, he kept his head on a swivel.

“It crosses your mind," Carter said. “I’m always aware of my surroundings at all times. I don’t take it for granted.”

It's the sort of experience the 46-year-old TV analyst wants to explain to viewers. He'll get that chance beginning Tuesday, when NBC Sports launches a new “Hockey Culture” show spearheaded by Carter — a 10-year NHL player — to “try to change the culture of hockey, one interview at a time.”

The initiative comes amid an awakening in hockey about systemic racism and its role in the majority white sport. Minnesota's Matt Dumba recently became the first NHL player to kneel during the “Star-Spangled Banner," Vegas teammates Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner were joined by Dallas players Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson kneeling for the U.S. and Canadian anthems the next night, and teams are taking tangible steps to address the issue in their communities, led by the Washington Capitals.

"Hockey is a great game," Dumba said in a powerful speech before one of the first games of the NHL restart, “but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”

Each step has brought the question of what's enough.

When Dumba took a knee, fellow Black players Darnell Nurse and Malcolm Subban each stood with a hand on his shoulders, and some questioned why they didn't also kneel. When Dumba raised his fist during the anthems the next day, some questioned why he did it alone.