The uprising for racial equality spurred Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and his brother Kyle into action, and their latest project transforming an ordinary pair of hockey skates into a meaningful work of art combines their love of Minneapolis with their desire to be agents for change.
Kyle will be painting the skates, provided by CCM, based on a design plan he and his older brother Matt mapped out. The skates will then be put up for bid on NHL Auctions with the money going to the Lake Street Council, a cause that is dear to both brothers.
“It’s always been about giving back in our family, giving back to the community and knowing how fortunate we are to be in the position we are, especially with where Matt is now, to be able to give back,” Kyle said.
Matt frequents the many small businesses on Lake Street in Minneapolis, including restaurants representing a wide variety of cultures, and a tattoo shop. Kyle says there hasn’t been a time when he’s visited his brother in Minnesota that they haven’t gone to Lake Street to eat, and drive or walk around.
Lake Street has also been at the center of the fight for racial equality after George Floyd was killed by a police officer who held him in an unauthorized choke hold nearby. Matt started a fundraiser for the Lake Street Council at rebuildminnesota.com, which will help local businesses that were damaged or destroyed during protests.
According to the Lake Street Council’s website, the organization had raised more than $9 million from 65,000 donors as of July 22, and of the 175 businesses that received the first $2.8 million in grants, 86% are owned by Black, Indigenous, People of Color or immigrants, and 85% were businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
Matt pledged to match donations up to $100,000 and received donation matches of up $50,000 each from the Wild and NHL. Part of the fundraiser is a raffle for a pair of Kyle’s custom painted sneakers.
“I couldn’t sit back and not do something or say something and be on the wrong side of history when it came down to that so I was looking for some way to do something and with Matt’s platform, I said we could be the voice for all of our friends and everybody that doesn’t think they have a voice,” Kyle said.
But the Dumba brothers wanted to do more, and that’s when the painted skate idea came up.
When CCM got involved to contribute a pair of skates for Kyle to paint, the culture and people of Lake Street were the inspiration for the design plans, as was a bright blue and yellow mural of George Floyd at the site of his killing that was completed in late May by three local artists.
“We want to make it loud,” Kyle said. “You don’t see custom skates very often so we do it want to make it pop. We don’t want it to be subtle. We want there to be some loud colors in there.”
Matt and Kyle talked discussed the story they wanted to tell with the skates last week and Kyle got to work on them. A goalie who recently finished his last season of collegiate hockey, Kyle took up painting a few years ago and started selling his work before combining his artistic talent with his love of sneakers. Within the last year, he’s begun selling custom painted sneakers, but the skates have even more quirks to navigate.
In addition to being oddly shaped, Kyle must sand off the clear coat on the skates before he begins painting. He likened it to painting a goalie mask and even consulted the person who does the art on his mask for tips.
“To make that look clean and still represent the story that we’re trying to tell with where the money from this auction is going to and making that story clear is one of that challenges of a skate instead of a flat canvas,” Kyle said.
But the all the work will be more than worth it when the money raised promises to make a big impact. Getting involved in activism has come naturally for the brothers, who grew up with a diverse family, including several adopted aunts and uncles from different countries and a multicultural group of friends. Their father Charles is Romanian and German, and their mother Treena is Filipino. Because of their upbringing, the Dumba brothers’ devotion to fighting racism and bigotry only grew as Matt gained more recognition as an NHL player.
Matt is a founding member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, along with current and former NHL players, that is working to eradicate racism in hockey. He became the first NHL player to kneel for the national anthem Saturday after giving an impassioned speech about supporting Black people in their fight for equality. He raised his fist in protest for the U.S. and Canadian anthems before the Wild’s Stanley Cup Qualifier game against the Vancouver Canucks and he’s vowed to continue to do so moving forward.
“Yes he’s a been great hockey player from the time he was a kid until now and it’s gotten him to where he is, but knowing him as his brother and seeing how he’s always been someone to stop and lend a helping hand or make a difference and want to see change for the better, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s taken this leadership role on and been so involved in this movement,” Kyle said.
“It makes me really proud because it’s what I’ve always expected from him and I think he expects a lot of that from me too and that’s why we’ve been doing a lot of this together.”