TORONTO — Hockey analyst Kelly Hrudey wanted the NHL to respond in a meaningful way after NBA teams boycotted their playoff games Wednesday in the wake of the weekend shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police in Wisconsin.
The NHL, which did not postpone any of its three games Wednesday, held a “moment of reflection” instead before the Boston Bruins played the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series in Toronto.
But Hrudey, a former NHL goaltender, felt the league should have gone further after the shooting of Blake and the NBA’s decision.
“I don’t think we should be here. I think the NHL should postpone the games,” Hrudey said on a TV hit on NHL Canadian rights-holder Sportsnet before puck drop at Scotiabank Arena. “I really feel we should be more supportive of Black Lives Matter.
“I know for myself, instead of watching hockey I’d prefer to be having this conversation with my family.”
NHL players are discussing options to protest racial injustice after the NBA and other professional sports leagues postponed games, according to a person with knowledge of those talks.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity early Thursday because those discussions were private.
Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara was asked if there was any discussion about not playing before a 7-1 loss.
“Like I said, it was so close to our game,” Chara said. “After our pre-game meal we took naps and we were on the bus so I don’t think anyone was watching the TV until we got to the rink and obviously it was too close to the game to start any discussions or trying to move the games to different dates.”
Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri said he had thoughts about not playing before his team’s 6-4 win over the Dallas Stars in Edmonton.
“It crosses your mind when you see other leagues doing something like that,” Kadri said. “We support and applaud the NBA for taking those circumstances. I understand this is a problem that’s gone on for far too long … Eventually words get stale and it’s about action and making a difference.”
The Milwaukee Bucks were first to boycott when they didn’t take the floor for Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with the Orlando Magic at Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in the late afternoon. The NBA later announced that all three of the day’s scheduled playoff games had been postponed. No announcement has been made on Thursday’s Toronto Raptors-Boston Celtics game.
Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba, who knelt for the American anthem on the first day of the NHL’s restart in Edmonton earlier this month, praised NBA players on Twitter.
“NBA Players leading! WE STAND WITH YOU AND DEMAND CHANGE!” the Regina native said.
Dumba later said in an interview with Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver that the NHL is “always last to the party on these topics.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was asked about Dumba’s comments after his team’s win.
“I know the league and the people running it … at some point everything will be addressed, and we’ll get ourselves up to speed and support what needs to be done,” he said.
The Bucks’ move resonated around the sports world.
The Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds opted not to play their Major League Baseball game on Wednesday night. MLB followed with postponements of a Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game and a Seattle Mariners-San Diego Padres contest. All three WNBA games on the league’s schedule were also postponed.
The Toronto Blue Jays, meanwhile, went ahead with their home game against the Boston Red Sox in Buffalo, N.Y., which started about an hour after the Bucks had boycotted.
Manager Charlie Montoyo said his team didn’t have time to discuss sitting out Wednesday night, but he expects to have that conversation before Thursday’s game.
“I understand and support the teams that have decided not to play, but it was right before the game when we found out and the players were already out there. So we proceeded to play,” Montoyo said.
“We’re going to discuss it and see where we go with this.”
Tennis did go on at the Western & Southern Open in New York, but the tournament announced after Wednesday’s final match it would not hold play Thursday and plans to resume Friday. One of the sport’s top players, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, dropped out of Thursday’s semifinals hours after winning her quarterfinal.
Canada’s Milos Raonic, who won his quarterfinal, says it’s imperative both the men’s and women’s tours come together in a hurry to have a discussion about what’s next.
“Having a sign somewhere of support, banners at a tournament or wearing a shirt in a warmup in an NBA game, it can only do so much,” he said. “I think real disruption … that’s what makes change. I think a lot of real disruption is caused by affecting people in a monetary way. That can force some kind of change.”
Blake was shot multiple times by police in Kenosha, about 65 kilometres south of Milwaukee. The Blake family’s lawyer said Blake was paralyzed and that it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again.
The shooting of the 29-year-old Blake was captured on cellphone video Sunday and ignited protests in Kenosha and elsewhere.
Hrudey said the NHL was “missing out” on important discussions about racial injustice by not postponing its games.
“This would be an important night for many families to have the discussion again. … So I’m disappointed that we’re talking about hockey tonight,” he said.
The league unveiled its #WeSkateFor campaign when it restarted its pandemic-delayed season — with #WeSkateForBlackLives and #WeSkateForEquality banners featured behind the nets in both buildings hosting the resumption of play.
On Wednesday, a public address announcer at Scotiabank Arena read a statement before a brief moment of reflection, saying “the NHL and the hockey community are committed in the mission to combat racial injustice.”
“The NHL would like to take this moment to wish Jacob Blake and his family well, and call out to our fans and communities to stand up for social justice and the effort to end racism,” the announcer continued.
Canadian soccer player Diana Matheson urged the NHL to do more.
“Come on NHL, step up,” she tweeted, adding the Black Lives Matter hashtag.
Canadian women’s hockey team member Sarah Nurse was also critical.
“Black Lives are more important than sports. PERIOD,” she tweeted. “I’m going to need hockey, especially, to understand that.”
Meanwhile, Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore posed a question to Major League Soccer.
“@MLS what are you going to do,” Altidore tweeted.
MLS ended up postponing five of six games on Wednesday night.
Toronto FC is scheduled to play in Montreal against the Impact on Friday night. The MLS Players Association tweeted its support for the NBA boycott.
— With files from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 26, 2020.