While teams across the sports landscape — the NBA, MLS, WNBA and several in MLB — refused to play Wednesday in the wake of police shooting a Black man in the back, the NHL played all three of its scheduled playoff games.
The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers’ game began at 3 p.m. ET, before the Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not play Game 5 of its opening-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic became clear. Their choice impacted the rest of the NBA, and the WNBA, MLS and six MLB teams followed suit.
The NHL did not.
Matt Dumba, a member of the Minnesota Wild and the player-formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, said the league’s decision to play games was “disheartening.”
“It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and for members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and I’m sure for other guys across the league. But if no one stands up and does anything, then it’s the same thing, that silence,” he told Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver. “You’re just outside, looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
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Prior to the game between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL displayed the words “End Racism” on video boards and held a “moment of reflection” for Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times in the back by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police on Aug. 23. Blake is paralyzed from the waist down and may never walk again, family and lawyers said.
“You can throw blanket statements out there and it’s not going to create much change,” Dumba, who is Filipino-Canadian, told the radio station.
Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks tweeted: “Actually it’s incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the @nhl, just straight up insulting.”
Dumba added that in a predominately white league, the burden lays on non-persons of color to lead the change.
“You’re just relying on the minority guys to step up and say it,” said Dumba, who knelt before a qualifying-round game earlier this month and read an anti-racism message. “But what would really make the most impact is to have strong white leaders from teams step up and have their two cents heard. All the other white kids who grow up watching them, who might be their biggest fans, can look up and say, ‘Wow, if he’s seeing this and trying to stand up and to listen, then why am I not as well? Why am I continuing to hold on to this ignorance or hate that I feel towards a subject that I maybe don’t know everything about?'”
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said his team simply did not have enough time before their game against the Lightning to make a decision.
“After our pregame meal, we took naps and then we were on the bus, so I don’t think any of us were watching the TV until we got to the rink,” Chara said, per ESPN. And at that point, obviously, it was too close to the game to start any discussions or try to move the games to different dates. We were basically following the schedule the NHL provided to us.
“We support fighting against racism and injustice. There’s different ways to express that fight. NBA players expressed their opinions about it by boycotting the games today. We support NBA players and all the leagues that showed that support.”