The National Hockey League has formally and finally announced the postponement of Thursday and Friday’s games.
The decision was driven by the players, itself driven by a boycott of games in the NBA Wednesday. This came in light of the shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of police, the most recent such incident involving racial injustice.
The NHL continued its games Wednesday evening and faced considerable criticism for the move.
The sporting world has come together in the fight to end racism. Still, there is opposition to even the mere presentation of what should be basic decency. Social media is predictably awash with such repugnant commentary, which reveals the ongoing need for movements such as Black Lives Matter.
“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,” the NHL and NHLPA said in a joint statement. “The NHL supports the Players’ decision and will reschedule those four games beginning Saturday and adjust the remainder of the Second Round schedule accordingly.”
“We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment,” continues the statement. “We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.”
The NHL has long – and perhaps rightly – faced criticism for being among the last of the major North American sports leagues to address these sorts of issues. But the league is trying to change that and subsequently extend its relevance in a changing world.
As much as the sport of hockey is a beautiful game, the culture surrounding it has suffered due to a kneejerk reaction from many to not draw attention to political matters or issues of racism that are alive and well in the game. Check the reactions of social media on such topics and you will find the usual flaring insistence that athletes “shut up and play” or any other such condescending rubbish.
But athletes are human beings, not mere objects of our desire to be entertained when we return home from work. Repudiating their moral drive on the basis of what they do for a living is preposterous.
It is evident, sadly so, that many average hockey fans do not care about what happened to Jacob Blake or George Floyd or Breonna Taylor or Atatiana Jefferson or Aura Rosser or Stephon Clark or Botham Jean or Philando Castille or Alton Sterling or Michelle Cusseaux or Freddie Gray or Janisha Fonville or Eric Garner or Akai Gurley or Gabriella Nevarez or Tamir Rice or Michael Brown or Tanisha Anderson or countless others.
But despite what some of the noisier voices on social media might say, the hockey community can do better, and it can stand up for what’s right. It can stand against injustice. It can take the same passion it holds against a journalist who gets a statistic wrong or misquotes an athlete or makes a spelling error and apply it to things that really matter.
And with the postponement of games on Thursday and Friday, the league and its players have taken a step in the right direction.