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NHL, NHLPA Postpone Thursday, Friday Games for Awareness of Racism, Social Inequity

The Islanders-Flyers Game 3 is pushed back after a movement led by players

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Dallas Stars v Vegas Golden Knights - Game One Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Spurred by player discussions last night and through the course of today, the NHL and NHLPA have agreed to postpone the playoff games scheduled for tonight and tomorrow.

The decision follows the lead of other leagues (and, primarily, their players) that took similar action yesterday as a form of protest given the persistent racial inequities most recently reflected in the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The NHL at one point looked like it would not take action, though momentum on this multi-league movement seemed to gather steam while the first game yesterday was already about to be underway.

Without question, members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance and other players calling members of that group helped spur that situation to change.

This of course means the Islanders-Flyers Game 3 will not take place tonight, though how the schedule is revised is to be determined.

The Islanders issued a statement of support that read:

“We are in total support of our players as they use their platform to bring further attention to a movement that is important to them, our organization and our game. We will continue to work together as we promote equality and to end racial and social injustice.”

Here’s some from coach Barry Trotz speaking earlier, before the decision was finalized:

We’ll likely update this post later with more quotes from this evening’s media availability on the topic.

I gather from viewing several forums that this form of protest is controversial* to some — and is not enough to others. (*Of course, the point of protest is to create disruption that raises awareness and initiates change.) I’m not going to simplify real societal issues, which persistently and all too silently affect some populations far more than others, as a one-side/other-side thing. Like any systemic issue that affects different people in different ways, it’s quite complicated and different people will have overlapping or conflicting views on what to do.

And no, postponing games doesn’t “change” that complication nor fix anything, but it does raise awareness and get people talking — and perhaps moves some people in power to listen to others who are often told there’s a “right way” — an elusive right way — to protest/initiate change.

Most importantly: This action is what many players, including Islanders captain Anders Lee, felt compelled by their conscience is the right thing to do. Black athletes have been raising their hands for years. With this week’s movement, more feel like they are heard by their White colleagues.

Commenting Note: If you wish to discuss this in comments, I ask that you do so respectfully, without trolling or baiting. And if you cannot recognize that Black and Brown people in particular are hurting and frustrated thanks to persistent infrastructural inequities in North America societies, I’d ask that you do some reading and listening first before airing grievances in comments. You’re probably just here for the hockey talk anyway.

UPDATE: Actually, forget that. Plenty have already battled and rehashed and gotten warnings in the day’s earlier post. Closing comments on this post, for moderator sanity.

On that note, Stars player Jason Dickinson — a White male who has been learning more about the experiences of Black relatives — has been doing a lot of that, and this quote in a piece by Pierre LeBrun is illustrative:

“It’s hard for some guys to have this hit home. I don’t want to say anybody’s blind to it or ignorant but we are a league of a lot of Canadians, a lot of Europeans, so it’s hard when something like that doesn’t hit home. You look at the MLB, you look at the NBA. They’re primarily American players. It’s easy to hit home for them. It’s easy for them to take a stance against something. (Tyler Seguin) and I take a knee and we get backlash that we are not Americans, we shouldn’t be speaking up for something like this.

“But we believe that we’re close enough as Canadians that we have a right to say something and in Canada, we face or have seen similar things. I think it’s difficult to appreciate things as outsiders to America, but we try to give our two cents where we can. You know what, tonight just didn’t seem like [playing] was the right call to do.”

The full statement issued by the league and players association reads as follows:

After much discussion, NHL Players believe that the best course of action would be to take a step back and not play tonight’s and tomorrow’s games as scheduled. The NHL supports the Players’ decision and will reschedule those four games beginning Saturday and adjust the remainder of the Second Round schedule accordingly.

Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences. The NHL and NHLPA recognize that much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centered on diversity, inclusion and social justice.

We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment. We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.

The NHLPA and NHL are committed to working to foster more inclusive and welcoming environments within our arenas, offices and beyond.