Monday night brought a powerful sight the hockey world had not seen before: four NHL players, soon to face off against one another as opponents, joined together to take a knee on the blue line for the national anthem.
Ryan Reaves and Robin Lehner of the Vegas Golden Knights and Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars all knelt for the national anthem prior to their round-robin game in Edmonton in an act of peaceful protest against anti-Black racism and to help push the hockey world into the cultural conversation around racial injustice.
“I did it because in hockey, there’s not a lot of people that are gonna do that and the conversation needs to be started in hockey and I think the whole point of the kneeling is, the kneeling isn’t gonna directly incite the change but it’s gonna start the conversation for change,” Reaves told hosts Ben Ennis and JD Bunkis on Sportsnet 590 The FAN on Wednesday. “Me and (Robin Lehner) had a conversation and thought that we were two people that could start that conversation up. So, moving forward me and Lehnny and other guys are gonna start talking about what we can do to help out with this movement.”
Being in the NHL’s bubble in Edmonton means finding different ways of creating change right now. Reaves said kneeling is just the beginning.
“It’s going to be a little tougher when you’re stuck in a bubble, but you’ve got to believe that it’s not just, you know, ‘I’m gonna take a knee and then I’m done with it.’ There’s gotta be some wheels that are put in motion after that,” he said.
Minnesota Wild defenceman Matt Dumba has been a major driver in bringing anti-racism awareness to the forefront in hockey. Over the weekend, he became the first NHL player to take a knee after delivering a passionate, emotional speech about bettering the game through eliminating racism within it, and has since raised his fist for the anthems prior to Wild games as his own peaceful act of creating awareness.
Reaves said right now, having important conversations are what will later lead to change — and he’s seeing that already.
“I think conversations have been started, and for sure after (kneeling) a couple days ago I talked to a couple of teammates, guys that I’ve never talked to about race before,” said Reaves, who also said he spoke with teammates and others within the Vegas organization about his plans to kneel. “Most guys have come up and said ‘We support what you’re doing and we believe in what you’re doing.'”
The forward has also experienced some backlash from those who view kneeling as disrespectful towards the flag and the military despite it being made very clear that that’s not what taking a knee represents.
“There’s definitely been some backlash, too, and I knew that was gonna come with the territory. A lot of people obviously not happy with the military aspect of it, but I tried to make it very clear that in no way do I disrespect the military. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all that they do for this country,” said Reaves. “This was a decision that I made for change in a different area and I think it was just something that was necessary to start the conversation within the NHL.”