Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning players said they found out about the NBA and other sports leagues’ postponing games only when they got to the rink in Toronto on Wednesday night. By that point, they didn’t have sufficient time to discuss following suit.
“It was so close to our game that we were just getting ready,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said. “After our pregame meal, we took naps and then we were on the bus, so I don’t think any of us were watching the TV until we got to the rink. And at that point, obviously, it was too close to the game to start any discussions or try to move the games to different dates. We were basically following the schedule the NHL provided to us.”
Chara, however, voiced support for his peers across other sports who decided to sit out Wednesday in protest of ongoing racial injustices, including the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Games were postponed Wednesday across the NBA, WNBA, MLS and MLB.
“We support fighting against racism and injustice,” Chara said. “There’s different ways to express that fight. NBA players expressed their opinions about it by boycotting the games today. We support NBA players and all the leagues that showed that support.”
The NHL drew criticism from two prominent players in the recently formed Hockey Diversity Alliance, including San Jose Sharks winger Evander Kane, who said the league’s “lack of action” was “incredibly insulting.”
— Evander Kane (@evanderkane_9) August 27, 2020
Meanwhile, in an appearance on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wild defenseman Minnesota Wild said the NHL “is always late to the party on these topics.”
“It’s kind of sad and disheartening for me and for members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance — and I’m sure for other guys across the league,” Dumba said. “But if no one stands up and does anything, then it’s the same thing: that silence. You’re just outside looking in on actually being leaders and evoking real change when you have such an opportunity to do so.”
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said he would have been “100 percent behind” his players if they had decided to sit out Wednesday.
Tampa Bay players also said they didn’t have serious conversations about boycotting Wednesday’s game because they found out about the NBA boycotts very close to puck drop.
“I think the world has changed in just this short time that we were at the rink,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “When I got here at 4:30, I think what’s happening now at 11:15 is much different than what was happening at 4:30. At the time … those weren’t things being discussed with our group. We were preparing to play the Boston Bruins.”
Before Game 3 of the Bruins and Lightning’s second-round series — which the Lightning won 7-1 — the NHL held a “moment of reflection” during which the words “end racism” appeared on the video board. The NHL, however, did not hold a similar pregame ceremony for its second game of the night, the Colorado Avalanche–Dallas Stars match in the Edmonton, Alberta, bubble.
For the late tilt, a pregame moment of reflection was scheduled to be held but didn’t take place. It wasn’t immediately known why. Stars players said after their 6-4 Game 3 loss that they were unaware the moment of reflection had been scheduled nor did they know one had been held earlier in the evening in Toronto.
Neither team had a discussion about boycotting the game. Dallas coach Rick Bowness spoke with forward Jason Dickinson, the Stars’ NHLPA rep, before the game to see if “everything was OK.” Dickinson indicated that the players wanted to play. Colorado coach Jared Bednar said none of his players indicated to him that it was being considered.
“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,” said Bendar. “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.”
Colorado forward Nazem Kadri, a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, said that a boycott “crosses your mind when you see other leagues doing something like that” and applauded the NBA players for their decision.
“The [anti-racism] signs are great, but eventually words get stale,” he said. “It’s about action and making a difference.”
Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson took a knee during the U.S. and Canadian national anthems during a game against Vegas in the round-robin tournament. Neither one said there was any considerable discussion about taking action on Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t a big serious conversation. Just a couple of us talking. To be honest, I woke up from my nap and I didn’t even realize what the NBA was doing until I got to the rink,” Seguin said. “I support the movement. Hockey needs to do more. But we can all show our actions in different ways.”
Dickinson said there are different ways players can show support for the movement but acknowledged that “it’s hard for some guys to have this hit home” because many of the league’s players aren’t American.
“I don’t want to say anybody’s blind to it or ignorant, but we are a league of a lot of Canadians, a lot of Europeans,” he said. “It’s hard when something like this doesn’t hit home. You look at the MLB. You look at the NBA. They’re primarily American players. It’s easy to hit home for them. It’s easy for them to take a stand against something. [Seguin] and I take a knee, and we get backlash that we’re not Americans, that we shouldn’t be speaking on something like that. But we believe that we’re close enough as Canadians where we have a right to say something.
“In Canada, we’ve seen similar things. So it’s difficult to appreciate things as outsiders to America. But we try to give our two cents when we can. And tonight it just didn’t seem like it was the right call to do.”
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski contributed to this report.