Minnesota Matt Dumba was the first NHL player to kneel during the U.S. national anthem when he did this before the opening game between Edmonton and Chicago in Edmonton, Alberta.
Dumba knelt on the ice in the middle on Saturday, while black teammates Malcolm Subban from Chicago and Darnell Nurse from Edmonton each stood with one hand on one of his shoulders. Several teams stood together during the US and Canadian anthems this week, with some players blocking their arms to show solidarity.
With the message "END RACISM" on the video screens around him, the defender of Wild made a passionate speech on behalf of the league and the Hockey Diversity Alliance about racial injustice.
"Racism is everywhere and we have to fight it," said Dumba. “We will fight injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans, because black life is important, Breonna Taylor's life is important. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a lot bigger, and it starts with all of us. "
Dumba and a handful of other black ice hockey players formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance in June after George Floyd's death in political detention in Minnesota. The Filipino-Canadian Dumba wore a Hockey Diversity Alliance sweatshirt while speaking and kneeling.
"I just wanted some kind of show support," said the nurse. "We are all involved and fighting the same fight. It was good that the message was heard and that it had to be spread and that actions had to speak louder than words."
After that, Dumba received support from the hockey community.
"I think everyone in the league stands with these guys," said Colorado striker Matt Nieto. "There is simply no room for racism in our sport or in any sport or just in general."
J.T. Brown, who raised his right fist during the anthem before a game in 2017 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, said on Twitter that he applauded "this great start" from Dumba.
"In the future, teammates should not allow teammates to fight this fight alone," Brown tweeted. "We always appear on the ice for each other, it shouldn't be any different."
Earlier this week, the Nazem Kadri avalanche center said it was a good sign of solidarity to stand with Minnesota players before an exhibition game, but he asked for more than gestures.
"We try to make the game more diverse, and there is no diversity in the game when there is racism, so it is important that we look at it," said Kadri. "As a player, we looked at it." From the league's point of view, I think maybe we would like a little more recognition and that they deal with the situation and know that they are related to their players. "
When asked about Kadri's comments, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told The Associated Press on Friday: "We fully agree on the ultimate goal."
The league consists of over 95% white players and has no colored people as a coach or manager. The recent national debate on racism has prompted many of these white actors to comment on the issue.
"I said how I feel and other players feel good when they say how they feel," said Stars striker Tyler Seguin, who marched in a peaceful protest in Dallas.
When the playoffs started on Saturday, a banner in the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto read: "#WeSkateFor Black Lives". Before the nightcap between Pittsburgh and Montreal, an anti-racism video montage was played on the video screens.
"In hockey, we often let go of our efforts, our determination, and our passion to win the talking," the video says. "But if a problem is bigger than the game, we have to express ourselves, starting with three words that we need to make ourselves comfortable." Proverb: Black Lives Matter. "
Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said he received a phone call from Ryan Reaves, a striker from Vegas, before the exhibition game between the Coyotes and Golden Knights, about players who locked their weapons, and is pleased to that the Diversity League gives priority.
"I'm fully involved," said Tocchet. "I thought it was great. I've seen all the other teams do different things. To show that awareness is great. "
Reaves wanted to do something to attract attention during the hymn, and teammates told him that they would support him. He didn't want to kneel because he wanted to do something that the whole team could participate in.
“For many people, kneeling is not the way they want to show support, and when we wanted to do something as a team, my big deal was that I didn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable in what they wanted to do felt, "said Reaves." I know if I said I wanted everyone to kneel, at least one man would feel uncomfortable and I didn't want to. I think this was the best way to get everyone involved and familiarize everyone with what we were doing. "
Toronto AP writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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