NHL players discuss options for racial injustice protests

National Sports

An End Racism sign is displayed before Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series between the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

NHL players are discussing options to protest racial injustice after the NBA and other professional sports leagues postponed games, according to a person with knowledge of those talks.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity early Thursday because those discussions were private. The subject rose to the forefront as multiple leagues called off games and two prominent Black NHL players expressed frustration that the predominantly white league went ahead Wednesday with two games preceded by moments of reflection.

“We really didn’t find out that the other leagues had taken their stance until we got here tonight,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said after playing Game 3 of his team’s second-round series against the Boston Bruins. “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.”

Minnesota’s Matt Dumba and San Jose’s Evander Kane, founding members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, criticized the NHL for going ahead with games while every NBA playoff game, plus three in Major League Baseball and others in Major League Soccer and the WNBA, were postponed. Players in those leagues were protesting the shooting by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

“The NHL, we’re always last to the party, especially on these topics,” Dumba said on Vancouver’s Sportsnet 650. “It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and for other members of the HDA 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.”

Kane said on Sportsnet he was disappointed not to hear about Blake’s shooting around hockey. He and Dumba, who gave an anti-racism speech on the opening night of the NHL restart and afterward knelt for the U.S. anthem, called on white players to take action about racial injustice.

“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,” Kane said. “Unfortunately, that still isn’t occurring, and we need to be better.”

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said the league will “get up to speed and support what needs to be done.”

“Unfortunately, we can’t control some of the things that go on in the outside world,” Cooper said. “I truly believe that whether it’s pro sports or the business world or whatever it is, at some point, we’re all going to have to come together. I think whether you say the NHL is behind or ahead, I think the league has done so many good things in so many different avenues, and this is one that we need to pick our head up and take notice and there’s no doubt we will.”

After the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to play Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against Orlando and the NBA postponed all game action Wednesday, retired goaltender-turned-analyst Kelly Hrudey said on Sportsnet the NHL should have done the same.

“I don’t think we should be here. I think the NHL should postpone the games,” Hrudey said. “I really feel we should be more supportive of Black Lives Matter. “I know, for myself, instead of watching hockey I’d prefer to be having this conversation with my family.”

Reached Wednesday night before Tampa Bay-Boston began and after the NBA’s decision, deputy commissioner Bill Daly said postponing games was not currently being contemplated. Daly added, “Obviously, we will see if the players feel differently and will respond appropriately and as necessary.”

The NHL Players’ Association is having those discussions ahead of two games scheduled for Thursday.

Boston captain Zdeno Chara expressed support for NBA players but said it was too close to the 8 p.m. game time for players to have a serious discussion about not taking the ice.

“We were just getting ready,” Chara said. “But we support the fight against racism and injustice. There’s different ways to express that fight and, obviously, NBA players expressed their opinions by boycotting the games today, so we support it.”

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AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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