Ryan Reaves led the way for the Vegas Golden Knights on what was another historical day in sports.
With the National Hockey League opting to cancel its slate of Stanley Cup Playoff games on both Thursday and Friday, Reaves stepped up to the plate for both the league and for the Vegas Golden Knights.
The forward, joined by fellow players from the teams still left inside The Bubble in Edmonton, spoke openly, passionately and from the heart about the problems currently plaguing this country.
It came in the wake of the NBA postponing their Playoff games following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin over the weekend.
Addressing the media in the wake of the NHL postponing Game 3 between the Golden Knights and the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, in addition to one more game on Thursday and two on Friday, Reaves took a stand to fight injustice and systemic racism in this country.
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And it sent a powerful message.
An incredibly powerful message.
Flanked by players from all four teams left in the Western Conference, Reaves made his feelings known.
It was a powerful statement from a collection of players who understood the significance of what they were doing.
After all, the NHL had come under heavy fire on Wednesday after continuing to play despite the NBA and some of Major League Baseball boycotting their games.
It wasn’t a good look and it was made worst when you consider that the NHL has a history of reacting slow to social issues.
And, being a predominately white sport, many on social media wondered if what was going on in the world and with the NBA actually had any impact on the NHL.
They needn’t have worried.
Spearheaded by the Vancouver Canucks according to reports, over 100 players jumped on a call with the The Hockey Diversity Alliance, led by San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba.
It was then the players who asked NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to postpone games on both Thursday and Friday.
Reaves, who had taken a knee during the National Anthem in the Golden Knights’ exhibition game against the Dallas alongside Robin Lehner and Stars’ players Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson, spoke to members of the Canucks before having a conversation with Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, a former St. Louis Blues teammate.
That really set everything in motion and led to the NHL hitting pause on its Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule until Saturday.
It also led to some powerful messages from Reaves and those players who stood alongside and behind him.
“I ended up calling Marc-Andre Fleury, I texted him at 12 a.m. to see if he was still up. He called me back and we had a decent conversation. In my head, I was thinking about how there were only a couple players of color in the bubble. How is this going to look? Am I just going to walk out to support my black community? Am I going to be the one or two or three out of the eight teams doing it? Am I not going to support and just go play and act like everything is fine? I was back and forth, but in my head I felt like we shouldn’t play. I felt like this was something that we needed to support.”
Reaves then praised his peers who wanted to stand in solidarity with him and send a very clear message…
“I think if you look around this room, and there’s a lot of white athletes in here, and I think that’s the statement that’s being made right now. It’s great that the NBA did this and the MLB and the WNBA. They have a lot of black players in those leagues. But for all these athletes in here to take a stand and say, ‘You know what? We see the problem too and we stand behind you.’
“I go to war with these guys and I hate their guts on the ice. But I couldn’t be prouder of these guys. The statement that they’ve made today is something that’s going to last. These two days isn’t going to fix anything, but the conversation and the statement that’s been made is very powerful, especially coming from this league.”
Reaves via nhl.com.
Reaves, whose mother is White and whose father is Black and was a former Sergeant with the Manitoba Sheriff Services, also praised his Golden Knights teammates for their support.
“Look, they could have said ‘We want to play, we’re playing well right now and we don’t think this is the right thing to do.’ And, to be honest, not every single player wanted to necessarily sit out for two days. I didn’t know if I wanted to sit out for two days. I was back and forth with it just like some of the guys on the team were. But the most powerful thing they said was ‘If that’s what you think needs to be done, I stand behind you.’ That’s the kind of team we have.
“We support each other in decisions we make, whether you believe it or not or whether you think it’s the right way of going about it. Every single guy once we talked about it said, ‘Hey, I support what you’re doing. We’re not going to play these next two days.’ I thank every player on this team too.”
Reaves via nhl.com/goldenknights.
The coaches of the remaining teams in the two Bubble Cities also spoke on Thursday, and Golden Knights Head Coach Peter DeBoer spoke of his pride in the actions taken by Ryan Reaves…
“Real proud of Ryan. It hasn’t just been the last 24 hours, we’ve had ongoing conversations going back to the beginning when we got into the Bubble and when Ryan and a group of other players took a knee during the national anthem. He is a smart, intellectual guy that has a lot of loyalty to both his race, but also to law enforcement and military. He doesn’t do anything without considering everything. When we discussed what was going to go on here today (Thursday), he had my full support. I don’t think he slept a lot last night and I think it weighed heavily on him. I also think he was very comfortable in his decision.
“I’m real proud of him and proud to stand behind him.”
Peter DeBoer via nhl.com/goldenknights.
It has been a historic week in sports and a historic couple of days in the National Hockey League, and Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves was at the heart of it.
While this is just the beginning and there is a hell of a lot of work to be done when it comes to forcing change in this country, the action of Reaves and his fellow players on Thursday proved that hockey is ready to play its part in fighting police brutality and systemic racism.