One of the NHL’s most prominent personalities, the hulking, bruising Vegas Golden Knights winger saw NBA players decline from participating in three playoff games. This was after the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by the police, in Wisconsin during the weekend. As every player did it in the WNBA, six teams in Major League Baseball followed suit, together with ten separate clubs in Major League Soccer. However, Reaves was bothered by how hockey ploughed ahead with its full slate.
The 33-year-old Winnipeg native, who is Black stated that he struggled with what he wanted to do the previous night. He wondered whether he was going to walk out on his team and be the only guy or whether there were going to be a couple of guys. He stated that he woke up to a text from Kevin Shattenkirk and he had a bunch of guys out east there and they wanted to talk. He then got a text saying, ‘wanted to talk.’
On Thursday, the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association stated that from the request of the players in response to the wider issues surrounding systemic racism, social justice and police brutality, it was suspending two playoff games arranged for that evening and the two set for Friday. Shattenkirk stated that they had a chance to talk as a team that night and the morning. He added that they all got together as players to figure out what sort of direction they were going to follow.
Shattenkirk noted that it was something that they were all fully behind. He confirmed that what transpired the other leagues sitting out was how they took their time, the ability to process it as a whole, speak as a group of players and make the right decision. The Vancouver and Vegas were slated to square off in Edmonton while the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers were scheduled to play in Toronto on Thursday. The matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars in Edmonton was also scratched while Tampa Bay versus the Boston Bruins is off Friday’s docket in Toronto.
While in Edmonton with members from all four Western Conference teams remaining in the leagues’ restart to its pandemic-delayed season standing in the room, Reaves stated that there was a lot of white athletes in there. He added that it was great that the NBA did that, and MLB and the WNBA have a lot of black players in those leagues. However, he noted that there was a problem with all those athletes in there to take a stand and say, ‘You know what? We see the problem, too, and we stand behind you.’ He added that the statement they had made that day was something that’s going to last.
Canucks captain Bo Horvat indicated that it was imperative to reach out to Reaves and take a stand. On the other hand, Colorado Avalanche centre Nazem Kadri, who is Lebanese-Canadian, stated that the generation of NHL players has a chance to make their voices heard in a sport that’s been historically white, conformist and slow to adapt. He added that they have a unique opportunity to try to create sustainable change. Also, he noted that every single player should be on the same page and stick together. Nazem said morally and ethically is the right thing to do.
Colorado Avalanche centre Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who is Black, said he didn’t feel right. He stated that after reflecting on it and them being there together, it’s the best response they could have. On Thursday morning, Lighting head coach John Cooper said there’s so much education that needs to go on. Moreover, several NHLers made strong statements while others marched with protesters after George Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. When the league resumed the season, it unveiled its #WeSkateFor campaign, with #WeSkateForBlackLives, Black Lives Matter” and #WeSkateForEquality banners featured in Toronto and Edmonton.
Before taking a knee during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba, who is Filipino-Canadian, gave an impassioned speech on the first day of the restart in street clothes. Besides, Reaves was then joined by three white teammates. They were the first players to kneel for the anthems in uniform before an NHL game. But Vegas head coach Pete DeBoer stated that Reaves doesn’t do anything without considering everything. Pete was proud of him and proud to stand behind him. On Thursday, the NHL and NHLPA said both understand “much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centred on diversity, inclusion and social justice.”
On Thursday, members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance tweeted out messages asking the league to suspend play. The organization also called on the NHL to commit to grassroots programs for minorities. Kadri said they want the NHL to understand that that was a partnership, a collaborative effort to create sustainable change. However, the league appeared stuck in the mud in less than 24 hours prior to the postponements. Players from the Lightning, Bruins, Avalanche and Stars had to answer questions about why they decided to play while some television broadcasters said live on air they felt uneasy with the games going ahead. Before the Lightning and Bruins battled in Game 3 of their series Wednesday brief, the so-called “moment of reflection” was held. There was no such moment before Stars-Avalanche in Edmonton.