Just a few months after the murder of George Floyd brought issues of race and racism to the forefront of the national conversation, the shooting of Jacob Blake has reignited those conversations including within the sports world. On Thursday, the NHL and NHLPA officially postponed the playoffs for two days after the players decided not to play in protest of systemic racism and police brutality. One of the leading voices to come out of the NHL on Thursday was that of Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves.
Flanked by several dozens of players from multiple teams, Reaves -- who is Black and dual citizen of Canada and the United States -- spoke at a press conference about the statement the league was making by postponing and he immediately spoke about the league's racial makeup.
"I think if you look around this room, there's a lot of White athletes in here and I think that's the statement that's being made right now," Reaves said.
Reaves is known as an agitator on the ice and is always an interesting quote so it should come as no surprise that he would be willing to take the conversation in this direction.
The NBA and specifically the Milwaukee Bucks were quick to make a stand as the Bucks decided to boycott Wednesday's playoff game against the Orlando Magic. That prompted other teams to follow suit and the NBA to postpone the playoffs for two days. Other leagues as well had several postponements in the last two days.
The NHL is a predominantly White league, more so than any of the other four major sports. The league received criticism on Wednesday for not postponing games after the NBA chose to do so. Many pointed to hockey's racial makeup as a reason for this, but Reaves believes the fact that a predominantly White league was willing to postpone for two days, even if it was a day late, sends a powerful message.
"It's great that the NBA did this and the MLB, WNBA; they have a lot of Black players in those leagues," Reaves said. "But for all these athletes in here to take a stand and say we see the problem too and we stand behind you, I'd go to war with these guys. I hate their guts on the ice, but I couldn't be more proud of these guys."
Like all political and social statements, the decision to postpone games was met with some criticism. Even a social movement that can be boiled down to "racism is bad" is not going to be universally supported. Perhaps the biggest criticism of the players' decision to protest is that it is a meaningless gesture that will have no real effect on the issue making it a waste of time.
While Reaves acknowledged nothing would be solved over the next two days, he also believes the NHL's statement is not simply a fleeting moment, but something much bigger.
"The statement that they've made today is something that's going to last," Reaves said. "These two days isn't going to fix anything, but the conversation and the statement that's been made is very powerful, especially coming from this league."