A day late and a dollar short: The NHL needs to take more action

Two days ago, NBA players chose to strike and not play their games after police shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin earlier this week.

It’s hard to be anything but proud of those NBA players for taking that action. For using their voice and taking a stand for more police injustice. They opened the door to conversation and many were able to speak with government officials to push for justice. Teams from the MLB, WNBA, MLS and MLB, too, launched a strike and games didn’t happen Wednesday.

That same night, the NHL had two games on their schedule. The first game was between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins. They held a pause for a moment of silence with the words “End Racism” on the jumbotron — the modern-day equivalent of offering their thoughts and prayers. Nothing, not even a moment of silence, was held before the late game between the Colorado Avalance and Dallas Stars.

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It’s far from what needed to happen at the time and that falls not only on the players, but on the league, too. The NHL should’ve stood in solidarity with the NBA and MLB teams at the time. In a Caucasian led league like the NHL, it wasn’t a surprise to see them do nothing on Wednesday.

Yesterday, the NHL’s players chose to take their stand and held a similar strike that will carry through tonight’s games. Players stood behind Nazem Kadri, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Ryan Reaves, Jason Dickinson and Bo Horvat in support. It was a powerful message, but one that came a day too late.

Reaves said Wednesday night, he went to bed unsure of wanting to play Thursday. He awoke to a text Thursday morning from Kevin Shattenkirk wanting to talk.

“If you look around this room there’s a lot of white athletes in here,” said Reaves. “I think that’s the statement that’s being made right now. It’s great the NBA did this, the MLB, the WNBA, they have a lot of black players in those leagues, but for all these athletes in here to take a stand and say we see the problem too, and we stand behind you. I go to war with these guys and I hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn’t be more proud of these guys. The statement they’ve made today is something that’s going to last. These two days aren’t going to fix anything, but the conversation and the statement that has been made is very powerful, especially coming from this league.”

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It’s the first step in the right direction.

Across the Nation Network, our writers have taken a stand and I’m incredibly proud of them for it. Here’s what was written and I urge you to spend time reading every article:

At TheLeafsNation, Matthew Henriques wrote an open letter to the NHL calling for change, site editor Jon Steitzer wrote about how the NHL and its players need to care, and MerOutLoud wrote about how people are still asking for more from the NHL.

At CanucksArmy: Stephan Roget wrote about how the Vancouver Canucks not playing was the right choice, but is not enough, Jason Jhutti wrote about how it’s time to demand change, and Jeremy Davis wrote about how NHL players should be jumpstarting conversations.

The Edmonton Oilers have since stood in support of the league’s suspension of play.

The Edmonton Oilers stand with and wholeheartedly support the NHLPA, the Hockey Diversity Alliance and the NHL for suspending play this week. We are very proud of the players for using their individual and collective platforms to amplify the issues of systemic racial injustice and advocate for positive change. The Oilers support players and athletes in all sports advocating for social justice and equality.

I’m happy to see the Oilers release this statement and I hope it’s the start of something bigger.

It’s a small step in the right direction to create conversation and enact further change. The NHL as a whole needs to do their part, too. The Black Lives Matter movement is about social justice and enacting positive change. For those who say “stick to sports,” the truth is there’s been an intersection of sports and politics since sports were a thing.

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I, and many others, want to see proactive work done by the NHL and its players in pressuring for social justice change. While their initial action Thursday was a day late and a dollar short, it’s the start of something that is hopefully bigger. Players have formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance, again, another great step in the right direction.

As a white man, I can’t relate to what Black, indigenous and people of colour have to endure on a regular basis. What I can do, however, is listen to their voices, educate myself, show empathy and use my platform to try and bring more awareness to this cause.