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Lightning Round: More NHL players speak out on racism

Conversations worth having are hard.

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning

Yesterday, as protests in response to racist police violence continued around the US, more NHL players found their voices and spoke up. In a league where players have traditionally been tight-lipped, even by professional sports standards, about anything outside of hockey, some have been moved to come forward and advocate for change.

Jonathan Toews is probably the biggest name in the sport to speak out so far.

The important part of Toews statement is that he recognizes the onus is on white people to understand their privilege and how that privilege has shielded them from the oppression that people of color face daily. He speaks directly to his own community and calls for action. That action is a little nebulous and drifts off into peace and love territory instead of more concrete language but he is clearly making an effort to improve himself and asking others to do the same. That’s positive.

Zack Smith also posted a message with some strong language making it clear that he is working to be anti-racist and expects it of those around him. He mentions that he’s uncomfortable talking about this topic but that his frustration overwhelmed him to the point where he feels he has to speak out. That’s a good thing. We should all be feeling that discomfort.

Mark Borowiecki continues to be a leader in pushing hockey culture toward a better future. His instagram post is particularly encouraging because he mentions specific actions he and his family are taking to push back against racism.

While expressions of allyship from white players are important in a predominantly white sport, no message yesterday was more important than K’Andre Miller’s. As the victim of racist insults during a live streamed AMA in April, Miller is acutely aware of his status as an outsider in hockey.

And now, just a month later, he’s again thrust into the spotlight as one of the few prominent black faces in a sport grappling with the same racism as the rest of society.

He expresses a concern for the safety of community and speaks to his own personal experiences both in and out of hockey. He’s a twenty year old young man already being asked to bear an unfair weight and toe an impossible line between being true to himself and being accepted in a sport that has traditionally been hostile to people who look like him.

This is not a time for platitudes or false optimism. We are finally seeing some prominent white players speak up against racism. That’s a good thing. But saying the words is only the first step. The hard part comes after that, when it’s time to do the work.

In hockey, just like in society, that means white players who want change refusing to tolerate racism when they see it happening around them. That means taking intentional steps to ensure that the spaces they occupy are inclusive. It likely means conflict with other people in the sport who are resistant to change. It definitely means educating their peers who are open to learning and improving. These are the responsibilities of white anti-racists. To do anything else is to tacitly consent to the status quo.

Other News and Links

Scott Wheeler at The Athletic released his Top 100 prospect ranking for the 2020 draft. When will the draft be? Who knows? But you can get to know more of the players for when the time comes.

On the whole, and without the presence of a generational talent, the class of 2020 is a strong one, particularly at the top of the draft. There are eight, arguably nine, skaters who would be top-five selections in most other drafts, plus a goalie who deserves to go in the first round (something I’m rarely comfortable saying).

Yesterday at 5 PM was the deadline for teams to retain some of their drafted players. Here’s the full list of players who did not get Entry Level Contracts from their teams. The Lightning did not have any players whose negotiating rights were set to expire.

In closing, The Athletic ran a piece yesterday where their staff writers shared their personal experiences with racism in and out of sports. The piece was unlocked so that non-subscribers can access.

If you are a person of color — and, in particular, black — you know the feeling. If you are white, the chances are strong that you will never know that feeling. Being judged, most often negatively, simply because your skin is darker.

Don’t try to relate. I don’t want you to. Just understand. Just acknowledge that in some ways, our existence will always be different than yours. Don’t be afraid to stand up if you see someone being mistreated. And don’t be afraid to speak up and have a conversation about race in public and, more importantly, in private.