The New York Islanders and the National Hockey League will join other professional sports leagues on Thursday and Friday and not play any playoff games to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
News of the postponement broke in the afternoon, but the NHL and NHLPA did not make it official until 6 p.m., an hour before the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers were scheduled to play. In a joint statement, the NHL and NHLPA said they supported the players’ decision not to play and that they would work to reschedule games starting Saturday.
“Black and Brown communities continue to face real, painful experiences,” The NHL and Players Association said in a statement. “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 NHLPA and NHL are committed to working to foster more inclusive and welcoming environments within our arenas, offices and beyond.”
The decision to postpone NHL playoff games comes a day after the Milwaukee Bucks made the unprecedented decision to boycott their Game 5 meeting with the Orlando Magic. The decision set off a chain of events that saw all NBA postseason games suspended for Wednesday and Thursday.
Several MLB teams also opted not to play in protests of the shooting of Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconson on Sunday, racial inequality and police brutality. The NHL was the lone sports league not to have any disruption in its schedule.
The Islanders were slated to face the Flyers in Game 3 of their Second Round series on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Islanders coach Barry Trotz hinted that the team was having discussions about whether or not to play on Thursday night.
“They understand the importance of the playoffs, but they also understand where the world is right now,” Trotz said Thursday afternoon prior to the cancellation of play. “What happened yesterday, we weren’t really quite informed about what was happening. We were playing when all this happened and then when you get to digest it, what happened last night was a great statement for the athletes.
“They have a great platform and they used it.”
“Our team understands the importance of playoffs but they also understand where the world is right now…The players will have to get involved, I’m going to have to get involved, everybody. If you do that, it will effect change for our country & it definitely needs it right now.” pic.twitter.com/hSakf575oS
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) August 27, 2020
The Islanders head coach did advocate for games to be played, saying that it helps give the athletes the platform to speak out on. And he expressed the need for everyone to get more involved.
“You have to get involved,” Trotz continued. “The players are going to have to get involved. I’m going to have to get involved. Everybody and if you do that, that will affect change for our country and it definitely needs it right now.”
The NHL faced some backlash for its decision to continue to play on Wednesday after the NBA canceled its slate of games. The league did read a statement of support to end racism prior to the start of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Boston Bruins game on Wednesday.
Evander Kane, one of the members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, called the NHL’s lack of action “incredibly insulting.”
NHL players did voice support for their fellow athletes in the NBA, which included Anders Lee.
“Obviously there’s a lot of things going on in this world that are unjust and a lot of inequalities happening,” Lee said after the Islanders 4-3 loss on Wednesday. “The NBA and those players are standing up for what they believe in. I think it’s a great thing that they’re doing.”
Lee made an impassioned statement in June on social media following the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
— Anders Lee (@leeberr09) June 1, 2020