Sharks sign former NHL player Akim Aliu to AHL tryout contract for remainder of season | CBC Sports

After years of feeling alienated from the NHL and fighting to diversify the sport, Akim Aliu now gets another chance to play professional hockey, this time with the San Jose Sharks’ minor league affiliate.

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

Aliu, 34, who plays defense, confirmed the tryout via text message to The Associated Press and said his flight had just landed in California.

“It’s huge. I prided myself on always doing things morally right and never wavered through all the dark times,” Aliu wrote. “I am extremely blessed to have this opportunity.”

Aliu last played professionally for Litvinov HC in the Czech Republic’s top league at the end of the 2019/20 season, scoring one goal and two assists in three games. He was born in Nigeria to mixed-race parents and then lived in Ukraine before his family eventually settled in a suburb of Toronto, where he took up hockey.

Aliu is a veteran minor league player best known for fighting racism in hockey. He rose to prominence after two life-changing social media posts in November 2019 that led to Bill Peters’ sudden resignation as coach of the Calgary Flames.

Hazing incident in junior hockey

Aliu revealed that Peters had bullied him and directed racial slurs at him when the two were minors a decade earlier. Peters resigned days later and Aliu’s revelations led to the NHL implementing a personal conduct policy to stamp out racism in a traditionally white-dominated sport.

The altercation with Peters and the fact that he had been the target of a hazing incident during his time in junior hockey led Aliu to believe his career had been stunted because NHL teams had labeled him a troublemaker.

Selected in the second round of the 2007 draft by Chicago, Aliu spent the majority of his 13 seasons bouncing from one minor league team to another. He appeared in just seven NHL games for the Flames, spread over two seasons.

Although Aliu had not officially retired from hockey, he co-founded a player-supported Hockey Diversity Alliance to raise awareness and make hockey more accessible to minorities and disadvantaged youth.

Aliu, who grew up poor, bought used equipment and took public transportation to practices and games across Toronto.

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

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