EDMONTON (NEWS 1130) — The Canucks stood shoulder to shoulder with their on-ice rivals Thursday to speak about the decision to pause the playoffs in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, and to support the movement against racism and police brutality.
NHL games went ahead Wednesday night after the Milwaukee Bucks led a protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The NBA and WNBA called off all games in solidarity, and some MLS and MLB games were also cancelled.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man who was unarmed, was shot seven times in the back. Blake remains in hospital paralyzed from the waist down. Since Sunday’s shooting, Kenosha has become the latest site of protests against racial injustice that have gripped the US since the May 25 killing of George Floyd.
The Hockey Diversity Alliance formally requested that the NHL suspend all scheduled playoff games early Thursday, and the NHL Player’s Association announced the decision to do so Thursday afternoon.
“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,” a joint statement released by the league and the NHL Players’ Association said. “Black and brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences. 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.”
Today the players of the NHL playoff bubble became allies.
In a time of professional opportunity, they chose to put their athletic goals aside and stand up for the greater good. pic.twitter.com/9RI0QabW4k
— Hockey Diversity Alliance (@TheOfficialHDA) August 27, 2020
Canucks Captain Bo Horvat and coach Travis Green spoke about the decision to cancel Game 3 of the playoffs against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in a news conference.
Both said they were proud of the move, and that it was made after reaching out to the Golden Knights and Ryan Reaves, one of the league’s few Black players.
“I felt like our group wanted to make sure that the Vegas team knew, that Ryan knew that they were behind him and wanted to have a conversation. I was behind them all the way and supported them 100 per cent with whatever decision they made and it’s hard not to be proud of them,” Green said.
“We talked about it as a group and wanted to go over and talk to Ryan [Reaves] and Vegas and we just all thought it was the best course of action,” Horvat said. “It was a really important decision and I think it was the right decision to make. We needed to do something and take a stand and I think this is the appropriate form of action.”
Reaves said he had been struggling to decide whether to play or not, and hadn’t decided what to do when he started receiving messages from players in the Eastern bubble and then from his opponents in the western conference.
“I got a text saying Vancouver wanted to talk. That I think was more powerful, that the conversation started with white players on other teams wanting to talk and I think that’s the most powerful thing that happened today,” Reaves said.
“If you look around this room there’s a lot of white athletes in here and I think that’s the statement that’s being made right now. It’s great that the NBA and MLB and the WNBA did this they have a lot of black players in those leagues. But for all these athletes in here to take a stand and say, you know what, 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.”
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 27, 2020
Green said cancelling games was a way to signal that there are “things that are bigger than sports.”
“I’m sure our province is proud of them but it’s not just about B.C. it’s bigger than that and it’s about society in general.”
Reaves stressed Thursday’s action was an important step for a league that’s been reluctant to address issues of systemic racism.
“The statement we’ve made today is something that’s going to last. These two days aren’t going to fix anything, but the conversations and the statement that has been made are very powerful especially coming from this league.”