Most players on the ice have chosen to stand, but not all.
On the ice, not one player knelt for the anthem during the League’s opening exhibition games last week, following the interruption due to the pandemic. However on Monday, four NHL players did kneel for the first time in the League’s history.
Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner of the Vegas Golden Knights and Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars took a knee ahead of their match in Edmonton, Canada.
Reaves told local 590 The Fan that “the conversation needs to be started in hockey.”
He added, “It’s going to be a little tougher when you’re stuck in a bubble, but you’ve got to believe that it’s not just, you know, ‘I’m gonna take a knee and then I’m done with it.’ There’s gotta be some wheels that are put in motion after that.”
As the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in Toronto for the opener last week, players STOOD on the blue lines “united in solidarity” for the anthem.
“A lot has happened since we played our last game,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby told NBC Sports. “And we felt, both teams, that it was important to show unity given what’s gone on and just wanted to be part of the solution moving forward.”
Players from the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators echoed the display on Thursday, standing and locking arms with opposing players for The Star-Spangled Banner. And the Boston Bruins and the Columbus Blue Jackets formed a circle of players, arms linked in solidarity, during the anthem.
Not one man knelt.
In a Twitter post, the Penguins stated the significance of the gesture. “The Penguins and Flyers, two of the fiercest rivals in sports, united in solidarity this afternoon, to stand up against social injustice, racism, and hate,” they wrote. “The teams stood as one across each club’s respective blue lines prior to today’s game.”
While MLB players marked the restart of their season with unanimous kneeling before the game, with each man symbolically grasping a length of black cloth in support of BLM, the NHL has adopted a different philosophy.
The League’s chief content officer Steve Mayer stated that they would host “an opening night that we think will be memorable and powerful as we honor frontline pandemic workers and those who are fighting for social justice,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
The NBA’s reopening on Thursday night saw all but one player, Jonathan Isaac, wear BLM shirts while kneeling. Meanwhile, the NFL signaled they intend to release their no-kneeling policy, put into effect in 2018, and they will play the “black national anthem” during their season restart.
Kneeling hasn’t caught on the same way on the ice as it has in other professional sports leagues, but social justice is no less an aspect of the political climate that demands a PR position.
A spokesperson for the Boston Bruins shared in a statement: “Over the past several months we have been trying to educate ourselves and learn more about racial injustice in our country and around the world. As a team we have decided to lock arms during the playing of the United States and Canadian Anthems as a sign of solidarity with the Black community.”
They added: “This action is solely intended to be a positive sign of support for the Black community, and a way for us to use our platform to help end racism.”
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