The Hockey Diversity Alliance has formally requested for the NHL to suspend all playoff games on Thursday, according to a tweet from Evander Kane, the group’s co-leader.
“We strongly feel this sends a clear message that human rights take priority over sports,” Kane tweeted.
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) August 27, 2020
Sources told ESPN that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association have been in communication over the past 24 hours, but the league will not initiate a stoppage unless there is a strong push from the players’ side.
The NHLPA will hold a conference call with players Thursday afternoon to get an idea for where they stand. In the meantime, the NHL postponed several scheduled media availabilities on Thursday afternoon.
Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by police Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as he attempted to enter the driver’s side door of his vehicle. Video of the shooting was distributed on social media, sparking more protests and causing more athletes to speak out or take action.
Games in the NBA, Major League Baseball, MLS and the WNBA were postponed Wednesday night in protest over racial injustice. The NHL, however, completed its full slate of three playoff games, including the Philadelphia Flyers‘ 4-3 victory over the New York Islanders. Those two teams are scheduled to meet again Thursday night.
On Thursday morning, Islanders coach Barry Trotz said his players were discussing the possibility of boycotting their game, scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, though he predicted they ultimately would decide to play.
“I know our team is having that discussion,” Trotz said. “I think we’re a pretty mature group. I’m trusting that group and the leadership of guys like [captain] Anders [Lee], and they’re excellent in that way. They understand the importance of the playoffs, but they also understand where the world is right now.
“What happened yesterday, we weren’t really informed what was happening. We were playing when all this happened. As you get to digest it, I think what happened last night is a great statement for athletes. They have a great platform and get to use it.”
Trotz’s counterpart, Flyers coach Alain Vigneault, said he has been so focused on the series that he was unaware of the protests going on in other sports leagues on Wednesday.
“I really have no idea what’s going on in the outside world,” Vigneault said Thursday morning. “We’re in this bubble right now. I’m invested 24/7 on our team, working 20 hours a day going through video and preparing our group.”
Players from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins, who played at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, said they only found out about the NBA’s boycott when they got to the rink, at which point they felt it was too late to have a full discussion about following suit. The NHL held a moment of reflection before that game, though they did not have a similar pregame moment in the Edmonton bubble for the Dallas Stars–Colorado Avalanche game.
Neither the Stars nor Avalanche said they had discussions about boycotting.
“If our players, even one player, had come to me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t think we should play,’ then we would have addressed it as a team. But I never got word from anyone in the room,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. “It’s obviously an important topic. It’s something that we need to think long and hard about as a country. But I just think that tonight maybe wasn’t the time and place for us.”
The Hockey Diversity Alliance was created in June and is co-headed by Kane, a San Jose Sharks winger, and Akim Aliu, a former player who made news in November when he came forward saying Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters used a racial slur toward him while they were in the minors a decade ago. Peters resigned shortly after.
The executive committee of the HDA features prominent minority players in the NHL, including Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley, Buffalo Sabres forward Wayne Simmonds, Flyers forward Chris Stewart and recently retired forward Joel Ward.
“We will strive to be a force for positive change, not only within our game of hockey but within society,” the players said in a letter announcing the formation of the group in June. “Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”