On Saturday, Matt Dumba, from Minnesota, became the first NHL player to kneel during the U.S. national anthem when he did so before the opening playoff game between the Oilers and the Blackhawks in Edmonton, Alberta.
Dumba knelt in the center of the ice, while fellow black players Malcolm Subban of Chicago and Darnell Nurse of Edmonton had their hands on one shoulder. Several teams this week stood together during the US and Canadian anthems, with some players taking up arms to show solidarity.
With the message “END RACISM” on the video screens around him, the Wild defender made a passionate speech about racial injustice on behalf of the league and the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
Dumba and a handful of other black hockey players formed the organization in June, following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota custody.
"Racism is everywhere, and we need to fight it," said Dumba. “We are going to fight injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and fans, because black lives are important, Breonna Taylor's life is important. Hockey is a great game, but it could be much bigger and it starts with all of us. "
Dumba wore a Hockey Diversity Alliance T-shirt while making the speech and kneeling. Afterwards, he received support from the entire hockey community.
"I think everyone in the league is with these guys," said Matt Nieto, a Colorado striker. "There is no room for racism in our sport or sport, or just in general for that matter."
J.T.Brown, who raised his right fist during the anthem before a game in 2017, when he was at the Tampa Bay Lightning, said on Twitter that he applauded Dumba's "great start".
"In the future, teammates should not let teammates fight this battle alone," Brown tweeted. "We always show up on the ice, this should be no different."
Earlier this week, the Avalanche center, Nazem Kadri, said that being together with Minnesota players before an exhibition game was a good sign of solidarity, but he called for more than just gestures.
"We are trying to make the game more diverse, and the diversity in the game does not happen with racism still happening, so it is an important thing to address," said Kadri. “As players, we tackle that. From the league's point of view, I think we would like to see a little more recognition and have them deal with the situation and know that they are with their players ".
Asked about Kadri's comments, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told the Associated Press on Friday: "We are totally in agreement on the final goal."
The league is made up of over 95% white players and has no colored people as coaches or general managers. The recent national debate on racism has caused many of these white players to speak out on the issue.
"I said how I feel, and other players are feeling free to say how they feel," said striker Tyler Seguin, who participated in a peaceful protest in Dallas.
When the playoffs started on Saturday, a banner at Toronto's Scotiabank Arena said: "#WeSkateFor Black Lives". Arizona coach Rick Tocchet said he received a call from Las Vegas striker Ryan Reaves ahead of the exhibition game between the Coyotes and the Golden Saints about players locking their arms and is happy to see the league prioritizing diversity.
"I'm involved in these things," said Tocchet. “I thought it was great. I watched all the other teams do different things. Show that awareness is fantastic. "
AP Hockey writer John Wawrow in Toronto contributed.
For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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