“We are obviously united and support the stand other major leagues did,” Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara said after the decision was announced. “Obviously, we thought this was the right thing to do, to take a stand.”
Said Colorado center Nazem Kadri: “Morally and ethically this is the right thing to do.”
San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, a co-founder of HDA, publicly made the request to pause play on Thursday afternoon, tweeting: “We the [HDA] have formally requested the [NHL] to suspend all playoff games today. We strongly feel this sends a clear message that human rights take priority over sports.”
The NHL had two playoff games scheduled for Thursday night, with the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders playing in Toronto and the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks playing in Edmonton. Friday, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins were set to play in Toronto and the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars in Edmonton.
All four games will be rescheduled starting Saturday, and the league will adjust the rest of the schedule accordingly.
“If you look around this room there is a lot of White athletes in here and I think that is a statement … for all these athletes in here to take a stand … I go to war with these guys and hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn’t be more proud,” Ryan Reaves, of the Vegas Golden Knights, said at a news conference with NHL players in Edmonton.
TSN reported Thursday afternoon that players of at least one team scheduled to play voted not to play in their Thursday game, while TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that more than 100 players in the bubble had a call with Kane and the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Dumba on Thursday afternoon. Kane noted in a tweet that the players “took a stand today, they stepped up.”
Islanders Coach Barry Trotz said Thursday morning that his players were going to have a discussion about whether they would play Thursday night. He had originally believed that the Islanders-Flyers game would go on as planned. When asked about his thoughts on other leagues choosing to sit out Wednesday and if he expected anything similar with the Flyers on Thursday night, Coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he had “really no idea what is going on in the outside world” and he was invested 24/7 on his team.
“We’re all for equality and social justice … but right now we’re here to play a game,” Vigneault told reporters early Thursday afternoon.
Kane, as well as Dumba, had expressed disappointment Wednesday that the shooting of Blake wasn’t a topic of conversation among players in a league that consists of predominantly White and Canadian players.
“The NHL, we’re always last to the party, especially on these topics,” Dumba said in a Wednesday interview on Sportsnet 650, a Vancouver-area radio station. “It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and for other members of the HDA [Hockey Diversity Alliance] and I’m sure other guys across the league. If no one stands up and does anything, it’s the same thing. It’s that silence that you’re just outside looking in on actually being leaders and invoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
The NHL’s three games on Wednesday went on as planned, with the only acknowledgment of Blake coming during the “moment of reflection” before the Tampa Bay-Boston game in Toronto. There was reportedly no moment of reflection ahead of the Dallas-Colorado game later that evening in Edmonton.
Kane tweeted Wednesday that the overall “lack of action and acknowledgment” was “incredibly insulting.”
“First thing’s first is acknowledging it,” Kane told Sportsnet on Wednesday. “It’s another instance, unfortunately, that still hasn’t been acknowledged and we’re about — what? — three or four days into this video [of Blake’s shooting] being released, or this incident occurring? And I still haven’t seen or heard anything in regards to it, so that’s disappointing and as a Black player in this league, it’s even more disappointing.”
Thursday, Kane also tweeted a statement from the HDA, stating that since forming in June, the HDA asked the NHL to sign the HDA Pledge, which includes “commitments to funding grassroots programs for BIPOC youth, funding impactful social justice initiatives, anti-racism education, targets for hiring and promoting Black individuals and businesses, and rule changes to make the culture of the game more inclusive.” The group hopes to announce an agreement in respect to the pledge before the end of the playoffs.
“We really didn’t find out that the other leagues had taken their stance until we got here tonight,” Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after Tampa Bay played Boston in Game 3 of their second-round series Wednesday. “It was something that I think for us was something we found out by the time we got to the rink and something we’ll have to address going forward.”
Dumba became the first NHL player to kneel during the U.S. national anthem, taking a knee before the Aug. 1 game between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks and making a passionate speech. “Racism is everywhere, and we need to fight against it,” Dumba said at the time. “We will fight against injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans because Black lives matter, Breonna Taylor’s life matters. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a whole lot greater, and it starts with all of us.”
Wednesday, Dumba called on the league’s White players to speak up, saying, “you can’t keep coming to the minority players every time there’s a situation like this” and adding, “the silence is as bad as the violence.”
Kane added: “It’s great to write statements, it’s great to send tweets, it’s great to post stories and pictures on Instagram, but at the end of the day it’s going to be about real action and meaningful change. Unfortunately, that still isn’t occurring, and we need to be better.”
This is a developing news story and has been updated.
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