A day after Zdeno Chara represented the Bruins in speaking about stepping away from the Stanley Cup Playoffs for two days to shine a light on social injustice and racial inequality across the United States, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand took the podium and answered questions about race, equality and the path ahead rather than hockey.
“We all realize that it’s beyond sports right now,” said Bergeron. “It’s about human rights and supporting our fellow players in this league. It was great to hear from them.”
The decision by NHL players to step away from the playoff games for a couple of days to point attention toward the racial injustices and social inequality taking place daily was time well spent by those players across the league.
It gave a couple of good men in Marchand and Bergeron a chance to speak their minds, address some tough subjects and talk about ways that hockey players can make a difference in their sport, and in the world, while acknowledging that none of the questions or answers are easy.
“One thing that people continually mix up is bringing politics into these situations. That’s not what this is about. We’re not being political,” said Marchand. “That’s not the goal and that’s not what we’re here for. There need to be changes made through society. It’s bigger than hockey right now and it’s bigger than sports. It’s about people being equal, being the same and being treated the same.
“It’s just about making changes. People want to point in different directions and make it about something that it’s not. We don’t want to make it about a political statement. We want to make it about people being better and making changes. [We want to] get to the point where we see each other as equals and that’s what it’s all about.”
Bergeron talked about the $50,000 he donated to the Boston Chapter of the NAACP and the Centre Multiethnique de Quebec in his native Quebec City, and the eye-opening conversations about the difficulties that immigrants and minorities face in his home city when just trying to establish themselves.
Marchand once again had some piercing, truthful words when confronted with the “stick to sports” mantra that so many sad detractors throw in anybody’s face that has a connection to the sporting world, and speaks up when it comes to issues like racial injustices.
“It comes back to people having opinions. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. But it’s very evident and clear that this is bigger than sports. People need to put that aside. Sports is a luxury. It’s a luxury to watch this game, to play this game,” said Marchand.
“But when it becomes about people’s safety and people’s lives and people feeling comfortable to be in their own skin, it’s much more important than that. I understand people want to watch the games, but it’s too bad. We have bigger things that we care about and that we want to do, and improve upon, and people that we want to support. That’s what really matters.”
Sometimes Marchand goes the funny route in clapping back at the haters on Twitter, but it was plain to see with his words just how smart, empathic and understanding he can be when discussing matters of social importance far, far outside of the realm of hockey.