The Prospects of NHL Prospect Kai Uchacz

Spread the love

Kai Uchacz sits in a category of NHL prospects that teams should avoid, but often don’t. With diversity, equity, and inclusion under the watchful eye of hockey critics and advocates, Uchacz belongs to an NHL prospect pool alongside players like Logan Mailloux and Mitchell Miller.

His off-ice behaviour, notably, racist comments Uchacz made directed at a Black teammate while playing for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Seattle Thunderbirds, should be more than a red flag, they should be a stop sign.

Uchacz’s Racist Remarks

In March of 2021, Kai Uchacz was removed from the Seattle Thunderbirds after the organization discovered the racist comments he used toward Black teammate Mekai Sanders.

Uchacz made racist slurs toward Sanders, the lone Black player on the Thunderbirds, and a banana was waved in front of the player according to a report from the Seattle Times. 

As hockey often does, however, Uchacz’s racism is being overlooked in favour of his on-ice skill. The Red Deer Rebels of the WHL were the first to make this choice when they traded for Uchacz in exchange for a second-round pick. NHL Central Scouting was next, ranking Uchacz 95th among North American Skaters in their Midterm Rankings.

Where Does Character Come In?

The problem with NHL Central Scouting’s process is it takes no account of character. It’s a single-layered evaluation of skill-based qualities. A successful career in the NHL, as we’re currently witnessing with a player like Evander Kane, involves more than skill; it also involves character.

Following his dismissal from the Seattle Thunderbirds, Uchacz was forced to complete training on diversity and anti-racism. But that doesn’t mean he has automatically changed. It also doesn’t mean he’s the type of prospect a team should draft.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and I deeply regret my decision making in the past,” Uchacz said in a Red Deer Rebels news release. “I have taken this time away from hockey to learn and grow as a person and have expanded my knowledge about this topic and how impactful it is. I thank the WHL for taking the time to work with me and believe in me as a person. I am thankful for the opportunity to play again.”

The problem with Uchacz’s statement is that it focused on his “decision making.” It did not focus on his beliefs and values, or a fundamental change to the type of person he is, a person who took repeated racist actions toward a teammate. All his statement signifies is that he was willing to do anything it took to return to hockey. As well that he will do better at concealing his anti-Black racist ideology in the future.

Should an NHL Team Draft Kai Uchacz?

No. Just as the Montreal Canadiens should not have drafted sexual offender Logan Mailloux, and just like the Arizona Coyotes shouldn’t have drafted a racist like Mitchell Miller. While the Coyotes quickly renounced their draft pick, which was the correct move, the Montreal Canadiens have done no-such-thing with Mailloux.

Uchacz’s presence on the NHL Central Scouting list demonstrates that at a league level, racism is acceptable and that being an overt racist does not disqualify you from playing in the NHL. Recently, the NHL’s refusal to partner with the Hockey Diversity Alliance has also come under deserved criticism.

The National Hockey League has left the decision of whether Kai Uchacz and his racism belongs in the NHL up to their 32 member teams. Unfortunately, if history is any indication, there is a chance an NHL team will make the wrong decision and select Uchacz in the 2022 NHL Draft.

Has There Been Change?

The agent of Mekei Sanders, the victim of Uchacz’s racist attacks made it clear that nothing has been done. All the WHL and hockey world mandated was that Uchacz complete training, and that he finds a new place to play. But for the WHL and hockey world to claim that there is “zero tolerance” for racism, is false. If there was zero tolerance, Uchacz wouldn’t be playing at all. He absolutely would not appear on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings.

As Scott Norton, the agent of victim Mekei Sanders stated, “What is the point of having a zero-tolerance policy if you do not hold your players to that standard? This was not a 1-time isolated, incident! How many chances does the victim get to live his life and chase his dreams?”

As long as prospects are evaluated exclusively on their skill, and their actions, whether they be tied to racism or any other attack on a human have no consequence, hockey’s culture will continue to foster divisive and unsafe spaces.

As Norton stated, “Enough is enough. Time for things to change in hockey and society.”

Main Photo:

Embed from Getty Images