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'Conversations weren't around my hockey ability': Ex-NHLer's graphic memoir

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In his first memoir, Akim Aliu details his climb through the ranks of professional hockey and the barriers he faced.

The former NHL Calgary Flames right winger wrote "Dreamer" to showcase the issues within hockey culture and how he was treated as a Black Canadian.

"For a long time, hockey is one of those sports where there's a culture of silence," Aliu told CTV's Your Morning on Thursday. "And anytime you act different, speak out on issues that happen in the game, you're essentially blacklisted from the game just because of how archaic some of the thinking and mentality is around the game."

The graphic novel features cartoon characters of Aliu and the people who were by his side throughout his career. For him, the idea of creating a graphic memoir aided the storytelling.

"I just thought it was really important for people to be able to visualize some of the emotions that I went through, dealing with a lot of the issues that I did," Aliu said.

Before he turned 10 years old, Aliu and his family had lived in three continents. When he came to Canada he noticed how important hockey was in the culture and wanted to fit in.

"We weren't really well-off financially, but it was just a sport that I almost felt left out not playing just because my friends were playing it," Aliu said.

In the memoir, Aliu details how he taught himself to skate, which eventually led him to play on a recreational hockey team in Toronto. Rising through the ranks in the hockey leagues, Aliu eventually made his NHL debut in 2011 with the Calgary Flames.

Aliu said, because he wouldn't be silent about issues within hockey culture, it impacted people's perceptions of him.

"The conversations weren't around my hockey ability, it was everything else that came with me and the fact that I was outspoken," he said.

To watch the full interview with Aliu click the video at the top of this article.

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