Moments after the Islanders left the ice at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto following their 4-3 overtime loss to the Flyers on Wednesday, they learned of what was going on in the NBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer when it came to games being postponed as a result of players being unhappy with systemic racism. The remaining Stanley Cup Playoff games went on as scheduled, but all games on Thursday and Friday, including game three between the Islanders and Flyers scheduled for Thursday night, have been postponed.
The Islanders didn’t have much to say about it after the game, but after they met as a team. Then came discussions with other clubs and the decision was made to not play as the sports world continues to react to the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old black man who was shot by police seven times Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“We were clearly not as informed as we are today about what was going on in the other leagues,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee who joined Flyers left wing James van Riemsdyk, Boston Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk on a Zoom meeting with reporters on Thursday evening.
“We had an opportunity to see what the NBA had done, MLB and so forth. We were looking forward to (game three on Thursday). We weren’t sure what was going to happen.”
Game 1: Monday August 24th…Islanders 4 Flyers 0 (Islanders lead 1-0)
Game 2: Wednesday August 26th…Flyers 4 Islanders 3 F/OT (Series Tied 1-1)
Game 3: Thursday August 27th…Flyers at Islanders…Postponed
The NHL is working on a revised second round schedule…
Players from all sports were angered this week when the video of the Blake shooting surfaced. It was the latest incident that continues to spark reaction and discussion regarding systemic racism, inclusion, and social injustice. Lee had talks with players from other teams within the Toronto bubble and there were also conversations with players in the Western Conference bubble in Edmonton.
Rumors of postponement started to trickle through social media early Thursday afternoon and then the NHL and NHLPA made it official. No playoff games would take place on Thursday and Friday.
“We came to understand and to really have that opportunity to support our fellow black players in this league,” said Lee. “We weren’t comfortable playing. We were right behind them. That inclusion…that support that we have for them is extremely important. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t have the answers to moving forward but its conversation and its time to reflect that we need to have as a group, not just in the hockey community but outside of that as well. We’re continuing to do our best to make a difference. The answers are out there and hopefully we can find them.”
In addition to the Islanders/Flyers game being postponed, the protest from the sports world affected some other New York/New Jersey events. The Jets cancelled their training camp practice and the Mets game against the Marlins at Citi Field was postponed after both teams walked off the field opting not to play following a 42 second moment of silence, a tip of the cap in effect to Jackie Robinson who broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947.
But there’s no question that we still have a long way to go in this country, North America and around the world when it comes to social inequality.
“We are in total support of our players as they use their platform to bring further attention to a movement that is important to bring further attention to a movement that is important to them, our organization and our game,” said the Islanders in a statement released by the team. “We will continue to work together as we promote equality and to end racial and social injustice.”
We waited a long time for sports to return in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. As sports made its way back, albeit for fans mainly watching on television, it gave us all something to be happy about given everything we’ve gone through over the five or six months. But during the pandemic, there have been more incidents involving systemic racism that just boggles the mind.
Sports helped lift the spirits of this country after 9/11.
It’s happened again since sports has returned during the pandemic.
Maybe sports can help everyone in this country love each other. All of us. I’m proud that my wife Sheryl and I have raised our sons Bradley and Jared in a home that preaches diversity, inclusion and the respect for all people. If we did one thing right as parents is to teach our kids that all people are equal and that includes our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and classmates,
With that in mind, hockey can wait a couple of days.