The decision comes 24 hours after other North American sports leagues boycotted games to bring heightened awareness to systemic racism and police brutality, notably after the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday when Jacob Blake, a Black man, was shot seven times by law enforcement as he entered his vehicle.
“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 league and the NHL Players Association 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.”
The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their Game 5 matchup against the Orlando Magic due to what happened in their home state. The NBA canceled it’s remaining games Wednesday and postponed games set for Thursday, but is set to resume the playoffs in the Orlando bubble on Friday. The WNBA also canceled its three-game slate Wednesday, as well as games on Thursday.
Two Major League Baseball games — Seattle and San Diego, Cincinnati and Milwaukee — were called off by the players.
The NHL, however, went on as planned Wednesday. Respective Game Threes between Dallas and Colorado, preceded by Boston and Tampa Bay, went on as scheduled.
“Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences,” the statement continues. “The NHL and NHLPA recognize that much work remains to be done before we can play an appropriate role in a discussion centered on diversity, inclusion and social justice. We understand that the tragedies involving Jacob Blake, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others require us to recognize this moment. We pledge to work to use our sport to influence positive change in society.”
The Golden Knights were expected to have media availability at 9:45 a.m. PT. Nothing materialized until 30 minutes later when the league announced there was a “slight delay” and that Vegas was scheduled to skate at 12:15 p.m. MT.
In that timeframe, members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance — Sharks forward Evander Kane and Wild defenseman Matt Dumba — tweeted that the HDA had formally requested for the NHL to cancel tonight’s games.
Soon after Vegas’ availability was deemed “TBA,” the Canucks also had their availability pushed back to a time to be determined.
Statement from the Vegas Golden Knights and our players pic.twitter.com/WVvhtnS8Q1— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) August 27, 2020
The NHL returned to play July 28 after a four-month pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Twenty-four teams arrived in Edmonton and Toronto to complete the season and award the Stanley Cup.
Prior to the resume, the NHL announced a #WeSkateFor initiative to honor frontline workers combating the coronavirus, as well as those fighting for racial equality.
Golden Knights players Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner took a knee prior to their round robin game against the Stars on Aug. 3. Dallas forwards Jason Dickinson and Tyler Seguin joined in what was the first notable sight of a peaceful protest in an NHL game.
“In no way am I trying to disrespect the flag or anyone who fought for this country. I have the utmost respect for everyone who has fought and died for the freedom of this country. That’s not the message I’m trying to send,” Reaves said after the game. “People go across seas and go to war, and families are torn apart in these wars for the freedom of this country, only to find out this country isn’t free for everybody. That’s where I’m coming from. No one is truly free in this country, and it’s coming to light more now.”
Lehner echoed those sentiments, adding that it’s time to move on from conversation and take action.
“This is not politics. It’s about human rights,” Lehner said. “It’s time to start doing something; just not let this be a news cycle and forget about it and do it over again. Everyone should have the same chance in society, and everyone should be treated the same. It’s time for whites to step into battle with their brothers and sisters and make some change.”
The Golden Knights and Canucks are tied 1-1 in their best-of-7 series.
“The NHLPA and NHL are committed to working to foster more inclusive and welcoming environments within our arenas, offices and beyond,” the statement concluded.