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Dumba, HDA ready for WinterFest in Toronto

Matt Dumba Arizona Coyotes Matt Dumba - The Canadian Press

With the National Hockey League’s All-Star Weekend festivities underway in Toronto, another event will take place in another part of the city as the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) hosts its first ever WinterFest.

The event, set for Saturday, will highlight diversity and inclusion in the game of hockey and feature a celebrity game, a skills showcase and kids’ ball and ice hockey games.

Arizona Coyotes defenceman and HDA co-founder Matt Dumba says that while the HDA event didn’t need All-Star Weekend to make it a go, the hockey world’s spotlight being on Toronto certainly won’t hurt.

“I don’t know how necessary having the All-Star Game is, or if it would change the experience, but it definitely helped, adding the element of hockey and an excited energy in the city,” Dumba told “But regardless, this is where we started our program and we just wanted to show our gratitude and kinda display everything we’ve been doing for the kids and make it a great day for everyone.”

This June will mark the fourth anniversary of the HDA’s founding with the group’s mission of countering racism and oppression in hockey and effecting change at all levels of the game, starting at the grassroots level. According to the group’s website, 35 per cent of its funding goes towards grassroots development and equipment programs.

Dumba says that at the heart of the group’s genesis was a desire for change, not just for the members themselves, but for those who will come after.

“I can recall conversations in COVID, kinda like a round-table Zoom meeting,” Dumba said of the early days. “Guys went around and talked about different incidents that happened to them in the past, dealing with racism. Each one was different, of different magnitudes, I guess, but all racist. When you hear those stories, they’re all different, but they’re all at the core the same. They’re driven by hate, and it’s something we realized just didn’t have a place in our game. We committed to removing that from our game and eradicating that for the next generation, so they don’t have to go through that.”

With as many as 1,000 youth players expected to attend on Saturday, Dumba says the event will provide an opportunity to reflect on how far the HDA has come and to look ahead towards more that still needs to be done.

“This started as a group chat,” the 29-year-old Regina native said. “Just guys on a text message thread and that led to phone calls and led to FaceTimes and now here we are with millions and millions of dollars coming in to help the kids and the communities that we’re trying to impact. We’re all so blessed, and we understand that. There’s a lot more hard work to do and we’re all ready for this challenge.”

The Hockey Diversity Alliance’s WinterFest is scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park.