A day after the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS suspended games in an historic moment for player action, the NHL has agreed to “take a step back” and pause the 2020 NHL Playoffs until Saturday in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin over the weekend.
In their statement, the NHL acknowledged a player-led movement — sparked on Wednesday night and carried on throughout the day — to step back and pause games until Saturday with the four games affected to be rescheduled at a later time. The statement defined the injustice faced by Black and Brown communities, and that “the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment.”
The full statement is below:
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.
Statement from the National Hockey League Players’ Association and National Hockey League. https://t.co/uV1F5iDeUS pic.twitter.com/JS2t0MvUij— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) August 27, 2020
On Wednesday, hours before tip off, the Milwaukee Bucks stayed in their locker room, called their state attorney general, and announced they would forfeit their game against the Orlando Magic. The Magic declined to take the win and also chose to sit out. From there, all NBA teams scheduled to play — led by the players — chose to postpone games until further notice.
Full statement from the Milwaukee Bucks: pic.twitter.com/jjGEyVcCmB— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) August 26, 2020
WNBA players from all six teams playing that night showed up to the court wearing shirts that spelled Jacob Blake with seven bullet wounds in the back in a sign of solidarity. Games begun with moments of pause every seven minutes, but the games were eventually disbanded as well. The Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds also cancelled their game out of protest and solidarity. A total of three MLB games and five MLS games were postponed for the protests.
Mystics players. Seven shots in the back. All WNBA games are canceled tonight. pic.twitter.com/mxrdbZ3Phj— Matt Blitz (@WhyBlitz) August 26, 2020
Collectively, this was a player’s strike calling for justice and an end to human rights violations by police.
The NHL had a chance to postpone games on Wednesday night as well, choosing instead to give a “moment of reflection” before the games happening that night (Tampa Bay vs. Boston, and Colorado vs. Dallas). The moment of reflection in Toronto was four seconds long, while the moment of reflection in Edmonton never happened.
The sentiment was not taken well, from fans, media, and players alike. Kelly Hrudey of Sportsnet voiced his unease with broadcasting the game with overwhelming support from his coworkers, though the games were still aired. The Hockey Diversity Alliance aired their frustration from the NHL’s lack of action at key moments, with Matt Dumba saying “we’re always last to the party, especially on these topics,” during a radio interview in Vancouver before the games.
"NHL, we're always last to the party especially on these topics"— Sportsnet 650 (@Sportsnet650) August 27, 2020
Founding member of @TheOfficialHDA Matt Dumba joined #TheProgram @AndrewWalker650 @SatiarShah to share his thoughts on the protests in sports today.
Full Interview here: https://t.co/NLKBAnXERb pic.twitter.com/EKSP1ZADms
LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@TheReplayGuy) August 26, 2020
"I don't think we should be here." @KellyHrudey
The next morning on Thursday, the HDA reportedly had conversations with over 100 NHL players and came to a collective decision to not play. The NHL made an attempt to make the postponement a league-led decision, but that notion was immediately pushed back with strong words from the players. As of 4:30 MT, the players held a press conference (with the room in Edmonton looking a lot more full than the one in Toronto) to discuss their decision.
Spot the difference. pic.twitter.com/h7DvHZfFQk— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) August 27, 2020
Players decision https://t.co/hsdBLO3vId— Nazem Kadri (@43_Kadri) August 27, 2020
The NHL, players, and coaches came under fire heavily yesterday for their lacklustre action on an otherwise unprecedented day. Alain Vigneault complained that he’s a “hockey nerd” who hasn’t bothered to pay attention to the outside world, with others deflecting responsibility to players and specifically players of color. Eventually, the players got there after several tense hours in the afternoon of Thursday, with the Vancouver Canucks in the West and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the East calling Ryan Reaves of the Vegas Golden Knights calling to start a dialogue.
In the middle of a heated playoff series, members of the Vancouver Canucks reached out to an opponent -- Vegas' Ryan Reaves -- to start the discussion that lead to postponing games.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) August 27, 2020
Kevin Shattenkirk also phoned Reaves with other players on the line in the Toronto bubble.
Reaves said that he was worried he might have to be the only one walking out on his game today. But he woke up with a text from @shattdeuces and texts from the @Canucks saying they wanted to talk, and was inspired by it.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) August 27, 2020
The HDA put out statements in no uncertain terms along with a set of demands outlined in a Twitter thread by Rick Westhead, and the players sent reports of games being cancelled through sources in the media. All of that led to pressure on the NHL to make a statement, which they did, and it was arguably the most direct statement on racism and human rights they’ve made during the global movement.
We the @TheOfficialHDA have formally requested the @NHL to suspend all playoff games today. We strongly feel this sends a clear message that human rights take priority over sports.— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) August 27, 2020
The HDA has also made several other requests of the NHL, among them that team owners offer NHL rinks to be used as polling stations for the upcoming US election. https://t.co/cOklW2Gs1I— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) August 27, 2020
From the press conference:
Today's press conference with @reavo7five speaking from the heart was great. I asked him about his message to the NHL players who sought him out today to talk about next steps. pic.twitter.com/9JEKGh27vb— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) August 27, 2020
Players were consistent that they are going to use the next two days to figure things out, and reiterated that they wanted to do the work and wanted to work with the @TheOfficialHDA.— Hemal Jhaveri (@hemjhaveri) August 27, 2020
From Colorado Sports
The Colorado Avalanche released a statement with their support for their players in this action, sharing the statement made by the NHL and NHLPA.
We support our players. #GoAvsGo https://t.co/EWkPmD0UIY— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) August 27, 2020
The Colorado Rockies also released a statement showing their solidarity, following in the footsteps of others athletes and teams.
After reflecting and meeting as a group, Rockies players have decided not to play today’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, standing in solidarity with athletes and sports teams against social injustice.— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 27, 2020