Harris finds alignment through NHL Player Inclusion Coalition role

Through his role on the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition, Jordan Harris is helping open doors for kids who may not have the resources to benefit from all that hockey can provide.

Harris finds alignment through NHL Player Inclusion Coalition role

For Jordan Harris, joining the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition has quickly helped him realize the impact he can have on young hockey players as a defenceman with the Montreal Canadiens.

Harris recently took part in his first event as an NHL Player Inclusion Coalition member, but it was last December when the 23-year-old became part of the group of current and former players who work together to advance equality and inclusion in hockey.

“I’m biracial and the work the coalition does helps kids of colour and those who might not have the financial resources to get into hockey,” said Harris, a second-generation African American hockey player. “It aligned with my ideals.”

“I had done some community work in college, which was a great experience. It was the same thing here in Montreal. Recently, I talked with the Habs staff with my girlfriend, and we spoke about what we wanted our community work to look like.”

Formed in June 2023, the NHL Player Inclusion Coalition checked all the boxes for Harris and his partner Codie Cross, a former Team Canada and U.S. collegiate defenceman.

The pair are excited about the future of the coalition.

“This is a hugely important initiative because it makes the sport more welcoming to all walks of life,” said Cross, who played for Team Canada at the 2016 IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championship, earning a silver medal.

“The coalition is an example of how you can be successful no matter your background and the adversity you may face along the way.”

“The more people I met, I found it blended with my own goals of wanting to help others,” said Harris, who started his NHL career with 10 games in 2021-22. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people who are part of this and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone else.

“There is such a wide array of hockey experience, which offers unique perspectives of the game. I get to meet people like Anson Carter and P.K. Subban, where I can pick their brains and then help do what I can to move this forward.” 

The coalition is co-chaired by NHL Alumni Anson Carter and P.K. Subban, along with 21 more members who form a range of perspectives across players of colour, the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

Harris is joined by fellow NHLPA members including forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Seattle Kraken), Cam Atkinson (Philadelphia Flyers), Ryan Reaves (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), along with defencemen Ethan Bear (Washington Capitals), Zach Whitecloud (Vegas Golden Knights) and Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston Bruins).

They are joined by PWHL members Sarah Nurse (PWHL Toronto), Abby Roque (PWHL New York) and former NHLPA members such as Georges Laraque, Jamal Mayers and J.T. Brown.

To celebrate the coalition’s formation, the NHLPA and NHL earmarked more than $1 million USD to support the group’s programs through contributions to grassroots organizations, player-perspective storytelling and other special projects.

Through support from the NHL/NHLPA Industry Growth Fund, a $750,000 NHL Player Inclusion Coalition Action Fund was established to further the group’s mission by directing resources toward grassroots programs that welcome and celebrate diverse hockey audiences.

Harris recently took part in an on-ice practice with an all-girls team who are part of Hockey 4 Youth, an initiative that fosters social inclusion for new Canadian youth in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton through free hockey experiences and life skills programs.

The Massachusetts-born blueliner was joined by former NHLer Laraque, who played 695 big-league games, including 61 with the Canadiens.

“Hockey 4 Youth is a great example of who I want to be working with,” said Harris, a third-round pick of Montreal in 2018. “They are committed to helping young kids who might not have the opportunity to play the game get that chance.”

Keeping up with some of the players kept Harris, who also took part in a video call with staff members from Hockey 4 Youth, on his toes.

“There were some very good skaters out there they were flying. The whole day was a blast.”

One that prompted moments of self-reflection afterwards.

“It made me realize that as a player in the NHL starting to understand the platform I have who knows what impact it may have on the girls that day? It’s just a little way to help grow the game and their connection to it. Sometimes all you need is someone to help you open a couple of doors.”

Cross, who played four seasons at Northeastern University, where she first met Harris, is happy to lend her time and support to the coalition and their objectives.

“I would tell any young person thinking of playing hockey that hockey is more than just a sport,” said Cross.

“It is a place where you can make lifelong friends, grow your confidence, learn valuable life lessons such as accountability, hard work, dedication and much more, and it can take you places you may have never thought were possible.”

Harris shares similar sentiments.

“I am so glad I am part of it,” said Harris. “The relationships I made in hockey are some of the greatest ones I have in my life."

“So, to be working with the great people who are part of this initiative, to see how everyone is committed to helping young kids enjoy the sport we love is very special for me.”