Flint's Rico Phillips to head diversity, inclusion for OHL
Flint hockey hero Rico Phillips: “There is no question that the biggest challenge facing hockey and sports, at all levels, is how to ensure that the game is inclusive.”
Rico Phillips retired from his day job less than a year ago, but he will be busy once again.
That's because Phillips, who has worked for years to promote hockey in the Flint area, has been named director of cultural diversity and inclusion for the Ontario Hockey League.
Phillips, who lives in Flint Township, retired from the Flint Fire Department last October after 27 years on the job. He is the founder of the Flint Inner-City Youth Hockey Program, which exposes kids 8-11 years old to hockey, and was the winner of the 2019 NHL Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award for his work in trying to get more youngsters involved in hockey.
Phillips will report to OHL commissioner David Branch and will “establish and lead a committee to provide guidance and expertise to the league and teams to help ensure that the game is inclusive for all players, staff and fans,” according to an OHL press release.
“There is no question that the biggest challenge facing hockey and sports, at all levels, is how to ensure that the game is inclusive,” Phillips said in a statement. “I believe the key to doing this is to work hard to eradicate racism and ensure an environment that is free from any discrimination.
“I am looking forward to working with the league and the Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Committee on these very important and, I believe, attainable goals.”
Phillips played high school hockey at Flint Southwestern, began officiating games in the 1980s and still plays in men’s leagues. He says he started the Flint Inner-City Youth Hockey Program out of a sense of duty to his hometown and to end his feeling of being the only black hockey player and on-ice official in the area.
The Flint Firebirds – formerly the Plymouth Whalers – are members of the OHL, which also has franchises near Flint in Saginaw, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, London and Windsor.
The OHL also boasts Sudbury Wolves center Quintin Byfield, a player of color (Jamaican-Canadian) who is projected to be the second or third player taken in the 2020 NHL Draft.