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 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 Sharks winger Evander Kane, who said the league’s « lack of action » was « incredibly insulting. »
Actually it’s incredibly insulting as a black man in hockey the lack of action and acknowledgement from the @nhl, just straight up insulting. https://t.co/1KrpUvFhaQ
Meanwhile, in an appearance on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Wild defenseman Matt Dumba 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 videoboard. The NHL, however, did not hold a similar pregame ceremony for its second game of the night, the Colorado Avalanche versus Dallas Stars match in the Edmonton, Alberta, bubble.
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