'I want to be more than a hockey player,' Canadiens' Jordan Harris says

Defenceman has joined the NHL’s Player Inclusion Coalition and wants to use his platform as a Hab to push for equality in hockey.

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Jordan Harris might only be in his second full season with the Canadiens, but he already understands that playing in Montreal gives him a significant platform.

The NHL recently announced the addition of Harris to its Player Inclusion Coalition — a group of current and former players, both male and female, working to advance equality and inclusion into the game. The coalition, formed in June, is co-chaired by former Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban and fellow alumni member Anson Carter.

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“Just playing for the Habs and playing professionally in the NHL, it’s fantastic and provides me with more network availability and people that can help,” Harris said last week, before Montreal embarked on its five-game road trip that continued Thursday night (10 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN Radio-690, 98.5 FM) at Vancouver.

“I think it’s tremendously important,” he added. “Now, I might be more of a role model with kids who are watching the Canadiens and pro hockey. It’s important. I want to be more than a hockey player. This strikes someone’s needs. I’m glad I can be a part of it.”

The coalition members, including Concordia Stingers women’s hockey head coach Julie Chu, serve as advisers, ambassadors and catalysts in the growing movement for inclusion across the hockey community. Harris became involved last December and recently participated in his first event — an on-ice practice with an all-girls team as part of the Hockey 4 Youth, an initiative that fosters social inclusion for new Canadian youth in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton through free hockey experiences and life skills programs.

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The league, along with its players’ association, already has earmarked more than US$1 million of support to the coalition.

“A young kid of colour who might not have the financial means to play, might turn on the TV and see a bunch of people who don’t really look like him on the ice — and that’s tough,” Harris explained. “Especially when leagues like the NBA and NFL … kids of colour or from minority backgrounds might relate to those leagues better.

“People telling their stories, the community efforts, just knowing there are players of colour who have had success. And there are people out there who can help if money’s an issue.”

Between equipment and ice rental, playing youth hockey is an expensive proposition. According to Hockey Quebec, 83,892 — the second-highest provincial total — were registered in the sport during the 2022-23 season. In comparison, more than 162,000 were registered in Ontario.

In November 2021, Premier François Legault announced a new committee — led by former NHL player Marc Denis, now an RDS broadcaster — to discover why fewer Quebecers are interested in hockey and why even fewer reach the NHL.

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Harris, 23, a native of Havenhill, Mass. who attended Northeastern University, didn’t hesitate to offer his time to the coalition. And, as the NHL’s only Jewish player of colour, he can relate to the committee’s mandate. Harris’s father, Peter, is biracial and was adopted from a Jewish orphanage. Harris’s mother is white and a non-Jew.

“I’m grateful how I was raised and feel really lucky to be exposed to the things I was,” Harris said. “You grow up not judging people based on their colour and religion. Judge people for people. In hockey, there’s so many diverse people in the locker room from everywhere.”

Harris, selected by the Canadiens in the third round (71st overall) in 2018, has two goals and nine points through 43 games. He missed 15 games this season with a lower-body injury and three more in February, following a concussion. He also was the subject of trade speculation earlier this month, given the Canadiens’ depth along the blue line.

“A lot of that stuff is out of your hands,” he said. “Control what you can on the ice and put your best foot forward every day. The amount of questions I got asked … if it happens, it happens. You can’t put much thought into it.”

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