After a week where several teams across the NHL tried to address anti-Black and systemic racism to mixed — if not underwhelming — results, players from the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars became the first to kneel in solidarity with Matt Dumba, Evander Kane, J.T. Brown and other Black players across the NHL.
Golden Knights netminder Robin Lehner, and Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jason Dickinson, joined Ryan Reaves to kneel during the national anthem on Monday.
Seguin, Lehner and Dickinson spoke to reporters after the game, providing more detail on the coordinated demonstration between the Stars and Golden Knights. Seguin said plans were hatched in warmups between himself and Reaves, and that he brought the idea back to the dressing room where Dickinson decided to get involved.
“I talked to Reaves in warmups and he said he’s kind of seen what I’ve done in Dallas and he said him and Lehner were going to kneel, and if I’d like to join them. I said absolutely. So I joined them.”-Tyler Seguin on kneeling with Reaves and Lehner
— Jason R. Pothier (@JRPothier) August 4, 2020
Meanwhile, it seems Lehner was largely responsible for the demonstration coming to life, first approaching Reaves with his intentions to kneel.
Lehner: "I think it's time for whites to step into battle with their brothers and sisters and make some change." #VegasBorn
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) August 4, 2020
Dickinson revealed that he had been considering whether he would make a statement, but admitted he was nervous about taking a knee on his own. So when Seguin came back into the room after his conversation with Reaves, it presented an opportunity he had been waiting for.
“When Seguin said it, it was kind of a no-brainer for me,” he said, via NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti.
Jason Dickinson on kneeling with Reaves, Lehner and Seguin for the national anthems: pic.twitter.com/WRsxAEclVE
— Tom Gulitti (@TomGulittiNHL) August 4, 2020
The Stars forwards shared their reasons for kneeling, with Dickinson in particular speaking with direct intent.
What were Jason Dickinson and Tyler Seguin supporting tonight? pic.twitter.com/k8H9rAMJcd
— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) August 4, 2020
Monday’s demonstration built on the incredibly important words and actions from Dumba, who spoke on behalf of the Hockey Diversity Alliance before taking a knee prior to Saturday’s game between the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks during the U.S. national anthem. Dumba was flanked by Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban and Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse, but kneeled alone, and later revealed that he regretted standing for the Canadian anthem that followed.
A day later, prior to his own game against the Vancouver Canucks, Dumba raised his fist but was not joined by his teammates or members of the opposition.
Monday’s move is a step in the right direction for a league that’s come under heavy scrutiny for its response to racism. But some hockey fans who are attuned to the intersection of race and hockey appeared to be surprised by Lehner in particular (and Seguin, to a lesser extent) for taking a knee.
Let’s examine why.
After Donald Trump was named president-elect of the United States, Lehner, while a member of the Buffalo Sabres, wore a mask in support of the Republican nominee during the pre-game warmups of the Sabres’ military appreciation night.
Good. I’m also surprised by Lehner https://t.co/fjdaomuI5C
— Jashvina Shah (Mrs. Spencer Reid) (@icehockeystick) August 3, 2020
It didn’t garner widespread attention at the time but when Lehner offered support for Akim Aliu, a former NHL player whose experiences with racism undoubtedly hindered his professional career, many called Lehner out for supporting Trump, who has often invoked the military and a larger police presence in response to the unabated police killings of Black people.
Lehner, however, responded in May that he no longer supports Trump and that he’s aiming to be a better person, as he works through his own personal issues. The goaltender was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wrote a candid essay in 2018 about how it has affected him both on and off the ice, and won the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded annually to the player who best embodies “qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication” to hockey.
He expressed regret with the decision to wear his support for Trump three years ago when discussing his decision to kneel before Monday’s game.
"I did the mistake once of putting the Trump sticker on my mask, something I regret now," said Robin Lehner. "At the end of the day, this isn't politics. It's human rights. It's time to start doing something, not just let this be a new cycle." #VegasBorn
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) August 4, 2020
After remaining silent on social issues for his career, Seguin attended Black Lives Matter rallies in Dallas in June, after the police killing of George Floyd.
Seguin also created Badges on the Blue Line, donating $50,000 to partner underprivileged youth with cops through the basics of hockey.
"I definitely think that it's important that we can see the police and understand that we're all on the same side. I think we need to really help to make sure there is respect on both sides,” Seguin said in a press release issued by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
For Lehner, he seems to be genuinely making an attempt at change, but his track record needs to be public record if he is to win acclaim for his gesture.
Robin Lehner is proof that it’s not too late for you. It’s not too late to learn and grow and stand up for what is right.
— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) August 3, 2020
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