Thursday's Game 3 of the Flyers-Islanders best-of-seven second-round series has been postponed as the NHL and NHLPA have decided to not hold playoff games tonight or Friday in order to highlight the current societal issues of racism and racial injustice.
The postponement comes in the wake of an incident last Sunday, when Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. According to reports, Blake is paralyzed from the waist down.
Along with the Flyers' game, which was scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, the Golden Knights-Canucks Game 3, which was scheduled for 9:45 p.m. ET, was also postponed.
The NHL and NHLPA released the following statement Thursday night:
The NHLPA representative for each of the four remaining Eastern Conference teams in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs — the Islanders' Anders Lee, the Flyers' James van Riemsdyk, the Bruins' Zdeno Chara and the Lightning's Kevin Shattenkirk — addressed the media Thursday night in a video interview from Toronto.
"There are many more guys who could be sitting up here and delivering this message who were involved in these conversations today," Shattenkirk said. "By no means do we view ourselves as a face of this; we want every NHLer to become the face of this movement. I think that's the most important thing is that this isn't just loaded to one guy, this is everyone getting behind this and making sure that everyone knows it's a full 100 percent commitment."
According to its members, including former Flyers Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart, the Hockey Diversity Alliance on Thursday sent a formal request to the NHL asking the league to suspend tonight's playoff games.
Stewart, a 32-year-old veteran winger who signed with the Flyers in October and played 16 regular-season games for the club, was contacted by van Riemsdyk on Thursday.
"I reached out to him this morning," van Riemsdyk said. "I only got a chance to play with Stewie for this season but have gotten to know him really well and really respect him as a teammate and as a friend and obviously him being a part of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Just wanted to reach out to him as someone who has been involved in some of these other conversations that are being had.
"For us, we're trying to do the right thing, looking for things that we can do to show support and be a part of this. That was the reason why a few of us reached out to him, to start some of these conversations and see what we can do to try to help things."
As news was breaking Wednesday in the NBA of its players' strike, the Flyers were in the middle of their 4-3 overtime Game 2 win. After the victory, Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the news but did not know of it yet and deferred comment.
Prior to the report Thursday afternoon about the NHL's postponements, Vigneault addressed the media at noon ET. He was asked about his thoughts on the postponements around sports in response to the Blake shooting and about the NHL's recognition of the events that have transpired outside of its two bubbles.
The Flyers-Islanders series is tied 1-1. Game 4 of the series was originally scheduled for Saturday at noon ET. That will obviously change with Game 3 expected to be held Saturday.
"They understand the importance of the playoffs, but they also understand where the world is right now," New York head coach Barry Trotz said about his team Thursday at 12:30 p.m. ET in a video interview. "What happened yesterday, we weren't really quite informed what was happening, we were playing when all of this happened. As you get to digest it, I think what happened last night [in the NBA] is a great statement for the athletes — they have a great platform and they used it.
"I just heard that the NBA is going to continue to play, and in my opinion, I think all the sports should play because I think the athletes in every sport have a great platform. Just like celebrities do, if you want to keep the issue in the forefront, then these athletes have a great platform. Continue to play, continue to express the message. And then the next step is what's the end game? We've got to know the definite end game and then I think you have to get involved, the players are going to have to get involved, I'm going to have to get involved, everybody. If you do that, that will effect change for our country — and it definitely needs it right now."
Following Wednesday's win, Sean Couturier didn't know about what was transpiring in the NBA, but the Flyers' center said:
“We each have got to take responsibility at respecting each other, treating each other equally. I think that will make us advance in society. Whatever your skin color or sex origin or whatsoever, I think it’s just important to respect each other and treat each equally.”