By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) - The National Hockey League said it has postponed playoff games that were scheduled for Thursday and Friday, joining similar moves by other leagues in protest over the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin on Sunday.
The decision impacts all the eight remaining playoff teams, starting with Thursday games between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders, and the Vancouver Canucks and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Boston Bruins were scheduled to play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday followed by a game between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars.
The NHL said the four games would be rescheduled beginning on Saturday.
"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," said the NHL and NHL Players Association in a joint statement.
"We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment."
While the NHL playoffs are being played in Canada in two quarantine bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, the shooting in Wisconsin of Jacob Blake in the back seven times at close range in an incident captured on video has been the top news story.
The incident has sparked protests and civil unrest across the United States with athletes showing their solidarity by effectively going on strike.
The NBA, WNBA, MLB and MLS all called off contests in protest of systemic racism on Wednesday while the NHL continued to play offering only a "moment of reflection" before the performing of the national anthems.
"Actually it’s incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the @nhl, just straight up insulting," Tweeted San Jose Sharks Evander Kane, one of a handful of Black NHL players.
The NHL decision on Thursday to join the other leagues and shut down was seen by many on social media as too little, too late.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, another of the NHL's Black players, called out the league's white players, saying they need to do more.
"You can't keep coming to the minority players every time there's a situation like this," Tweeted Dumba. "The white players in our league need to have answers for what they're seeing in society right now and where they stand."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)