San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler, Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby are among the many NHL players speaking up in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests against police brutality in the United States.
Ryan Reaves is one of the more prominent black players in the NHL – many consider him the top enforcer currently in the league – and the Vegas Golden Knights forward joined Good Show on Wednesday to share his perspective on what’s going on.
“There’s obviously been some problems between the black community and police and it’s been years of that and the video that just came out of George Floyd, obviously that’s a little bit of a boiling point, and it’s tough because not all cops are bad,” the Winnipeg native said. “You see a lot of these protestors, sometimes people are out there for the wrong things and people need to be out there protesting and having their voice heard because that’s very important.
“There has to be some kind of dialogue at some point to make some important changes and that just has to happen, but destroying cities and the looting and that kind of stuff, you’re destroying the place that you live in. So, I don’t think that is the right way to go about it, but voices have to be heard and then there has to be some kind of change between the communities and the police.
“What’s the right way to do that? I’m not going to pretend like I know that but there has to be some real dialogue right now because there’s been problems for years and you can’t just keep going through this because like you’re seeing right now if voices aren’t heard something’s going to happen and you see that’s what’s happening all over the world right now.”
The Akim Aliu incident that came to light this past November shed some light on racism and discrimination in hockey. Reaves was asked about that and what he thinks needs to happen for the sport to make changes and how it can become more diverse.
On what makes a strong ally…
“Somebody that truly looks at you equally. If there’s just a little bit of a discrepancy of how somebody views me or I view somebody, that’s not an ally. You have to look at somebody as 100 per cent equal, it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you came from, what kind of culture or beliefs you have, if you don’t look at me as a true equal then you can’t truly be an ally.”
On using his voice…
“Sometimes there’s hard questions like what should we do and I don’t have the answers for that right now. At the same time, as a black voice in the NHL and in the Vegas community, I think it’s important for me to be able to answer those questions when they’re asked. But at the same time, I’m not gonna sit here and tell you that I have the answers for how to fix all this because I don’t.”
On dealing with these issues in uncertain times…
“It’s kind of tough to be having this conversation when everybody’s been in lockdown for coronavirus. It’s easy to say, ‘hockey’s for everyone, this is what we should be doing,’ and all that, but we’re talking about it in a time when nobody can actually do something, so saying it while you’re locked down in your house is one thing. Once everybody’s free out of the gates, going out and actually putting those wheels in motion that’s a whole different thing, so I’m very curious and hopefully excited to see some of that be put in motion once the economy starts opening up a little bit.”
On growing the game…
“You got to get out to these communities. You’ve got to bring awareness to the sport. Hockey is an expensive sport. It’s no secret it’s one of the most expensive sports just because of the equipment and if you’re a kid trying to play hockey you’ve got equipment and then you outgrow that equipment in a year.
“It’s a tough sport to get into, but first of all, you have to educate communities on the sport. Try and draw them in with a ball hockey tournament or just something and then you get into donating equipment to communities and building rinks and bringing them out to the rinks and bringing players that they can relate to out to the rinks. That’s very important.
“If you go into a black community and you bring 10 white hockey players it doesn’t resonate as much than if you bring one black hockey player. Those kids will look at you and say, ‘Oh, he looks like me and dresses like me.’ Those kinds of things resonate with kids and those are the things that will draw them into the sport.”