April 24, 1989: The world welcomes the quiet, wise beyond his years warrior Akim “The Dream” Aliu. A childhood marked by welfare and scrappy surviving at best, with stints in Nigeria, Soviet Union to Canada, struggling to make ends meet while enduring endless racial prejudice and tension. But Akim didn’t know any other way; resiliency, drive and hopeful horizons were within his blood from day one, as if life was preparing his sails to weather many storms ahead. And that he did, with a career that has thrown just about everything his way: hazing, bullying, inequitable access, and most recently - public shunning, by the very industry he loved most.
But “victim” he is not, as his purpose lies in much bigger prerogatives. To unmask the mysteries, break through the barriers and transform the hockey culture into what it was always meant to be.
After years of quietly dealing with racial slurs and unfair treatment, it was time to break the silence.
Upon hearing the news of the Mike Babcock and Toronto Maple Leafs incident, Akim took to twitter - and his words would set off a firestorm within the National Hockey League. Forever changing the culture of the sport, forever changing his future.
Not very surprising the things we’re hearing about Babcock. Apple doesn’t fall far from the Tree, same sort of deal with his protege in YYC. Dropped the N bomb several times towards me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn’t like my choice of music. First one to— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019
admit I rebelled against him. Wouldn’t you? And instead of remedying the situation, he wrote a letter to John McDonough and Stan Bowman to have me sent down to the ECHL. 20 year old on pace for 20 goals in his first pro year with zero PP/PK time was off to a great start in his— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019
Pro career— Akim Aliu (@Dreamer_Aliu78) November 26, 2019
THE REACTION WAS SWIFT
By the time Akim returned to his phone, he’d received hundreds of messages from friends and family confirming that his tweets had gone viral. Countless interviews and discussions would follow with lawyers, league officials and media outlets all in an effort to find out what was next - a question for which Akim already had an answer.
THE NEW FUTURE
In the time since the tweets, Akim has been focused on moving forward and creating a new culture for the game he loves most; a new arena that supports equitable access, freedom to express, and the underlying motto that hockey is heart.
Inspired by personal adversity and commitment to courageous candor, Akim seeks to instill the same unwavering belief that at the core of the competition, hockey is heart. The culture has hardened over the course of its history and it’s time to melt the ice. Akim is here to do that.
A landscape that breeds brotherhood and fosters new families. A game that pushes physical boundaries and releases mental flow. And above all, an environment that unites cultures, backgrounds and nationalities whose players persevere with pride. It’s time to rebuild a new arena that is fair, equal and authentically expressed.
“We need to create dialogue around the problems that currently exist within the sports model. Those being; lack of diversity, lack of funding for programs in underserved communities, and cultural barriers within specific sports themselves prohibiting encouragement for minorities to join.”
- AKIM ALIU
The game has taken something away — hazing, concussions and other injuries. but the game has also given me much more than I could ever hope for. it goes with the territory. nothing in life is perfect.”
- AKIM ALIU