Standing in front of a microphone on Thursday, with his fellow players around him, the Colorado Avalanche's Nazem Kadri said it best: “Some things are bigger than sports. There comes a time you have to start acting on your words.”
One day after Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their NBA playoff game to protest racial inequality, sending a tidal wave of action across the sports world, the NHL's players joined the movement and opted to not play on Thursday or Friday. The efforts came in response to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis., over the weekend.
"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," a joint statement by the NHL and NHL Player's Association read. "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 move comes less than 24 hours after the NHL dropped the puck and played two games Wednesday night. (The Islanders and Flyers game was an afternoon game and going on when the Bucks decided to boycott.)
"I love the sport. I love hockey. I feel like yesterday was a missed opportunity for us," said Kevin Weekes on Hockey Central Thursday morning. "I felt like the cadence of the drumbeat was such that it was a watershed moment around this issue...but as a league yesterday, I feel like that was a missed opportunity for us."
Postgame media availabilities following the Bruins-Lightning and Stars-Avalanche games were heavily concentrated on why the games were played.
Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said that the actions taken by the Bucks and then the rest of the NBA happened "too close" to game-time and that there was "not enough time to change the schedule. A similar statement was said by the Lighting's Kevin Shattenkirk, who said the team didn't find out until they got to the rink. Thursday, Flyers' head coach said the next morning, "I have no idea what's going on in the outside world."
Now they do.
One thing that was repeatedly stated between the bubble cities in Edmonton and Toronto was support for what the NBA did and that change is needed not just in the world but across the hockey community.
"Honestly, I think we need to do more as a league," said the Stars' Tyler Seguin following his team's game. In early August, Seguin, teammate Jason Dickinson and Vegas' Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner knelt during the anthems prior to their round-robin game. "I don't know if it's because we come from, you know, honestly the hockey culture of kind of being quiet and not speaking your mind all the time. I think guys have become more comfortable and confident to do so to speak up. But, as far as, you know, leaguewide I definitely think we need to do more."
Those words were echoed by the Avalanche's captain Gabriel Landeskog.
"It's a matter where a lot of players and a lot of superstars in this league have spoken out and put out statements through their channels and use their platform to voice their opinions, which is sometimes a little bit unusual for hockey players who'd like to stay private but this has gone on way too long in this country and it needs change...this has just gone too far."
Thursday the players took the first step, of being leaders and working to make a change.