EDMONTON — They played hockey when others called their games off, and you can have your opinion on whether that was right.
But when a tumultuous night in the world of sports had concluded, the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche gave us the very essence of why we watch the games in the first place. In a 6-4 thriller, the Avalanche climbed back into their series by scoring three goals in the final eight minutes, stealing a win that turned this Western Conference Round 2 series around.
“And now we’ve got ourselves a series,” said Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog in a post-game press conference dominated by questions about the Black Lives Matter movement, as the NHL played games Wednesday evening while the NBA, the WNBA, MLS and some MLB teams did not.
“I think there are different ways to show your actions and what you support,” reasoned Dallas’ Tyler Seguin, who had taken a very public stance when these playoffs began. “Dicky (Jason Dickinson) and I did our first game (kneeling), so I fully support what the MLB and the NBA are doing. We just had the decision tonight to play the game.”
Here in Edmonton, you would not have known it was a seminal day across the sports world by any scoreboard reference or tribute. A pregame report stated there would be a pregame ceremony, but minds must have been changed as they simply sang the anthems and dropped the puck, Colorado and Dallas playing a game that would accrue a growing Avalanche of criticism on social media as the night wore on.
Nazem Kadri, a charter member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, also considered the strike.
“It crosses your mind when you see other leagues doing stuff like that. We applaud the NBA for taking (its stance),” he said.
“The signs, the hockey ops is great and everything. But eventually, words get stale. It’s about action and making a difference.”
As a sports league, the NHL took plenty of criticism Wednesday for forging ahead with its playoff schedule while other leagues set theirs aside. But it’s a strange ask on a game day for the individual players, whose routines are set, their focus trained away from social media and on the game ahead.
Players on both sides said that their game-day schedule left them somewhat in the dark as to what was happening outside their hockey bubble, both literal and figurative.
“To be honest,” Seguin said, “I woke up from a nap and I didn’t really realize what the NBA was doing until I got to the rink. So, there wasn’t much thought in my head throughout the day to think about not playing tonight. But like I said, I support what’s going on, I support the movement and I think hockey needs, honestly, to do more. But I think we can all show our actions in different ways.”
It’s a confusing time for Dickinson and Seguin, a couple of Canadians who are not afraid of making a stand, but seem somewhat unsure of the best way to do it.
“Does this not playing solve things?” Dickinson asked. “No, but it brings attention to it and you know what, it happened kind of last second, like Seggy said. We woke up to it, we were already in game-mode, and it was kind of one of those things that it’s hard to come together that close to game time and just change (your) mind.
“We come from all walks of life, we’ve got guys from all over the country. It’s hard for some guys to have this hit home,” he continued. “I don’t want to say anybody’s blind to it or ignorant, but we are a league of a lot of Canadians, a lot of Europeans, so it’s hard when something doesn’t hit home. You look at the MLB, you look at the NBA, they’re primarily American players so it’s easy to hit home for them. It’s easy for them to take a stance against something.
“Seggy and I take a knee and we get backlash that we are not Americans. We shouldn’t be speaking out for something like this. But we believe that we’re close enough, as Canadians, that we have a right to say something and in Canada, we have seen similar things.”
The Stars erased a 3-1 deficit to go ahead 4-3 with nine minutes to play. But Kadri got the winner, his seventh, and now both teams will see — at minimum — a Game 5.
Or will they?