Hockey mom strives to grow the game by empowering players of color with skills, resources and positive experiences
When Meredith Lang’s family moved back to Minnesota, her daughter Aubrey Lang was 5 years old and had a request: She wanted to play hockey. So, Meredith got her daughter, now 14, set up playing hockey. In the years since, Meredith has helped make hockey possible for many other Minnesota kids of color with her latest initiative being Mosaic Hockey Collective.
“I think for me, I was just set out to normalize black and brown faces in hockey,” Meredith Lang said. “I just wanted them to know that they have a place.”
Mosaic Hockey Collective is a newly formed 501©3 focused on building an inclusive hockey community that empowers players of color with skills, resources and positive experiences to grow and give back to the game.
Lang, a 2022 Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award finalist, said she doesn’t want any player of color to quit playing hockey or feel like the sport isn’t for them because of bad experiences.
“I don’t want to lose one kid,” Lang said. “So to me, the motivation is I understand the culture. We can support and say, ‘no, we’ve got you.’”
Mosaic Hockey Collective, though relatively new, has already had a few events, including a clinic with the Augsburg women’s hockey team in January, Matt Dumba’s Hockey Without Limits event in Roseville on Feb. 20 and Black History Night with the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 9.
At the first intermission of that Wild game, youth players involved with Mosaic Hockey Collective took part in a shootout competition at both ends of the ice. Some of the goal-scoring moves were pretty impressive and drew boisterous cheers from the crowd. They practiced their deking moves all week leading up to that night, and the goalies worked on having their A-games, too, Lang said.
Lang made the “Let’s Play Hockey!” call prior to puck drop for that matchup between Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild that night. She was joined at the microphone by her daughters, Aubrey and 11-year-old Mia Lang, both hockey players.
When Aubrey asked about playing hockey nearly a decade ago, Meredith, a former Richfield High School hockey player, was a little confused, since they didn’t talk about hockey.
“’What do you know about hockey? And why?’” Lang asked her daughter. “I’m blessed that I did play a little bit. But I had my high school friends, and I could just call them up and say, ‘my kid wants to play hockey. What does that mean? What do I do?’”
Within a week, her daughter was all set with equipment, learning to skate and getting placed on a hockey team. That’s not a path that every family in Lang’s community is fortunate enough to be on, however.
But Lang does have some of that knowledge, thus she started Hockey Ninas and Minnesota Unbounded before moving on to starting Mosaic Hockey Collective in December 2022. This program also incorporates boys, as Mosaic includes girls and boys from the BIPOC community who are hockey association players from around Minnesota. Mosaic represents about 30 communities in the Twin Cities metro area but also have families from Fargo and Wisconsin involved.
“They want to play the game at the highest level, whatever that is for them,” Lang said. “And we are able to provide amazing experience for them, development opportunities.”
At the heart of Mosaic is the community of youth hockey players and their families who all love hockey. It’s made up of boys and girls who play association hockey in the age range anywhere from U6 to high school. Mosaic wants to hit the demographic because these are kids who are invested in hockey but need help getting to whatever their next level may be, like development, a next-level opportunity or exposure.
It’s also important for the kids in Mosaic to see that there are other kids who look like them who play hockey.
“Honestly, not to exaggerate, but I do think it’s life changing for these kids,” Meredith said.
Mosaic will have weekly developmental practices for kids on the ice from April through August, along with some guest coaching. Jason Poitra’s three daughters, who play hockey in Edina, are involved in Mosaic. He’s excited about the new venture.
“I think this is great, what’s going on. I really do,” Poitra said. “It opens a lot of eyes for whoever is on the outside looking in. I think it’s great.”
Poitra, a native American, grew up a hockey player in South Minneapolis before moving to White Bear Lake. Being part of Mosaic is personal for him, and it’s an organization he wished he would have had growing up.
“Specifically to make things more comfortable as a minority kid playing the game of hockey, which is predominantly dominated by, is a white sport,” Poitra said. “And that’s just the truth.”
Mosaic’s main mission is to continue to grow the game of hockey and have it be a more inclusive sport and representative of players of color.
“When we look at teams, there’s maybe one boy or girl of color on a team,” said Michael Hafertepe, a Mosaic Hockey Collective board member. “So it’s really about trying to bring awareness that kids of color can play hockey.”
Mosaic is also about shrinking the game for these young players so that they can have some of these great experiences, like playing on the Xcel Energy Center ice sheet, to help fuel them, Lang said.
“We believe that the more positive experiences they have, the longer they’re going to play, the longevity that they’re going to have,” Lang said. “Then they are going to cycle through and they are going to end up growing the game.”
Part of Mosaic Hockey Collective’s mission is for these kids to be involved with the sport of hockey in more ways than playing the game. The initiative is all-encompassing surrounding hockey, helping to open doors for kids.
The faces of Mosaic will also be hockey coaches, referees and members of a hockey-team front office.
“That’s how we’re going to grow the game, and that’s our initiative,” Lang said.
Hafertepe, a Richfield native (adopted from Korea as a baby) who played hockey growing up and is now a U15 coach in Lakeville, started working with Lang a couple of years ago when she started Minnesota Unbounded. One of the fun parts of Mosaic Hockey Collective is recruiting kids when his teams are out playing games, to help build the Mosaic community.
“Then it’s just helping get those players to whatever level, next level they want to get to,” Hafertepe said. “Whether that’s college hockey, whether that’s high school hockey. Whether that’s making the next A team. That’s what we’re here for.”