Actions speak louder: How the Pittsburgh Penguins prove that hockey really isn't for everyone

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…" – Martin Luther King, "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

All I heard was silence. Jeremy Lorado had deked through my entire team and was coming unopposed on a breakaway while I was desperately trying to concentrate on the puck.

It was the same silence I heard at 6 AM every morning when I would break into the empty rink at school to work on my skating.

My instructor was a classmate who was an all-state forward in high school. She was also the daughter of the one of the world’s most famous CEOs. It was a sadomasochistic exercise.

"So why now?" She asked in response to my sudden desire to finally lace up the skates.

"Couldn’t afford it. Equipment, ice time…we didn’t have any of that stuff back home. They didn’t even air the Hawks games in Chicago." I lamented.

"Man, that sucks. Well, you won’t be able to skate unless you hit your edges like I told you. Didn’t your doctor say your knees were in no condition to be on the ice?"

Sheepishly, I went back to flailing around on the ice in silence.

It was the same silence I heard from my mom when I asked for a copy of NHL ’98 on Nintendo 64 for my birthday.

"I thought you wanted to sign up for basketball this year. That’s what I got you for Christmas."

"Maybe for my birthday?" I replied.

Silence. That’s the downside of having a birthday right after Christmas.

"I don’t have the money for both. Since when did you start liking hockey anyway?"

I wasn’t sure. Hockey is for people with money and/or access to tons of cheaper local rinks. The NHL is also 93% white. I didn’t have any white friends with money that played hockey until I went to Yale, which is where you go to make white friends with money. As a lower income black guy, I assumed I was their first minority friend without money who played hockey.

It’s entirely possible that a similar circumstance happens in an NHL locker room. A 2014 Washington Post study said that 75% of white Americans have "entirely white social networks without any minority presence." As such, "most whites are not 'socially positioned' to understand {systemic oppression} -- simply because they know few people who've experienced it."

"There’s the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice…

As a result, when other sports leagues were taking a stand against the North Carolina legislature for its retrograde HB2 transgender bathroom law, the NHL stood silent in response.

…who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom.

When John Tortorella vowed to swiftly punish any player on the U.S. Hockey team who protested the national anthem, only J.T. Brown, a black forward on the Tampa Bay Lightning, had the temerity to call Torts out on his hypocrisy.

…who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action...

As players and coaches in the MLB, NBA and the NFL expressed support for their fan bases in protesting police brutality against minority communities, the NHL instead focused on keeping social issues "off the ice."

...who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice..."

Yet when the sporting world as a whole stood up or knelt against a president who can be classified, in the most generous terms, as "divisive," the NHL couldn’t put its skates in its mouth fast enough.

A common refrain from hockey fans has been that players such as Sidney Crosby shouldn’t be compelled to speak on issues taking place in the U.S. as a Canadian citizen, which is entirely his right. However, when an equally great player like LeBron James, uses his gravitas to push for social change, Crosby’s (or Toews, or McDavid’s, etc.) silence speaks volumes.

Recently, the NHL released its Declaration of Principles, promoting the core tenets of the game.

Ironically, here’s one of the key ones:

"All hockey programs should provide a safe, positive and inclusive environment for players and families regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Simply put, hockey is for everyone."

How can a sport purport to be a safe haven from the harsh realities off the ice and intrinsically support the oppression that fans and burgeoning players need saving from?

How can hockey be for everyone in a society that is not?

The silence speaks for itself.

This post was written by a member of the Raw Charge community and does not necessarily represent or express the views or opinions of Raw Charge staff.