Lali Toor’s dad came to Canada in the 1980s, and quickly fell in love with the Oilers.
It was a love he passed onto his son. Toor would play elite level minor hockey. But, hockey didn’t love him back. He was out of the game before he turned 20, frustrated by what he says was top-down racism in the sport.
“It exists overtly, but even worse is the systemic racism. It really hurt me. It got to the point where other parents felt bad about it. They’d tell my dad that his son was a wicked player, but it won’t be an easy road.”
Toor even searched out a former NHLer for advice.
“He told me that God has given you this gift, you skate like the wind. But, it’s not going to be an easy road. This is white man’s sport.”
While his dreams of taking his game to the next level were crushed, he never stopped loving hockey. That’s why he co-founded Apna Hockey, “the first South Asian hockey network,” in 2017. It welcomes minority kids into hockey, giving them ice time and equipment. In 2020, Apna won the NHL’s Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award for making hockey more inclusive. Apna, which translates to “our” hockey in Punjabi, has held camps in Edmonton and Calgary in conjunction with the Oilers and Flames. Plans are to take the program to Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Toronto with support from those cities’ franchises.
Next up: Toor is regularly updating a list of Indo-Canadian players who are coming into the pros, and excelling in the junior ranks. These expats, he believes, inspire the next generation and could carry the banner of Team India into the Olympics.
Why He’s Top 40
He challenges the norm that hockey is a “white man’s sport.”