The Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins held a moment of solidarity to support racial equality prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Saturday.
Before the playing of the Canadian and United States national anthems, a video was played highlighting the need for progress in hockey and society, including the phrase, “Equality is the only way forward.” Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk then appeared in a pre-taped message.
“I think for us, the decision to postpone our games and sit out was viewed as an opportunity to highlight a bigger issue than hockey,” Shattenkirk said. “We wanted to make sure that every Black player in this League can feel safe and can feel like they have a voice. We want to make sure we continue this conversation moving forward, and make sure we keep the sport progressing in the right way as well.”
It was followed by similar videos from Bruins forwards Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“It was amazing to see everyone coming together and realizing this is bigger than sports,” Bergeron said. “It’s about human rights. It’s about supporting our Black players, being there for them and realizing there needs to be change. We want to be a part of that change going forward. So this is just the beginning. Obviously, we know that there needs to be reflection and discussions, and conversations, but there also needs to be actions. We want to be there for that.”
The game is the first since players on the eight remaining teams decided not to play Thursday and Friday as a protest against systemic racism and police brutality. Game 4 of this best-of-7 series was originally scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday.
During a conference call Friday, Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn respectfully declined to answer a hockey-related question, citing a desire to focus on the social issues at hand. Coburn was with defenseman Luke Schenn, who said excitement following a 7-1 win in Game 3 that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead in the series was dull on Wednesday.
“After most playoff games, you get a win, everyone’s high-fiving and celebrating,” Schenn said in Toronto, the East hub city. “After the last game, it wasn’t like that at all. We came into the room and we were made aware of what was going on. The conversation quickly shifted. Obviously, you’re in the middle of a playoff series, but there’s kind of more that’s happened outside of the game itself.”
Following that win, the Lightning were informed NBA players had boycotted playoff games Wednesday after a white police officer shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, at least seven times in the back in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday. Players from Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the WNBA also boycotted games, and several NFL practices have been cancelled, the past three days.
Shattenkirk and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara joined New York Islanders forward Anders Lee and Philadelphia Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk to represent the Eastern Conference for a press conference Thursday regarding the decision to postpone games.
In Edmonton, the Western Conference hub city, Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves, Colorado Avalanche center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Dallas Stars forward Jason Dickinson, Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat and Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri held a press conference at the same time Thursday. They were flanked by peers, representing each of the four remaining Western teams.
“We’re not being political,” Marchand said Friday. “That’s not the goal, and that’s not what we’re here for. There needs to be changes made throughout society. It’s bigger than hockey right now. It’s bigger than sports. It’s about people being equal and being the same and being treated the same.”