Bruins players plan to lock arms during the U.S. and Canadian anthems to promote racial equality, while members of the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins lined up together Tuesday before the first exhibition game of the NHL’s restarted season.
The league said it would feature Black Lives Matter and other social justice issues during opening ceremonies this weekend in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. NHL executive Steve Mayer expects other demonstrations to happen organically.
The Bruins became the first team to announce its intentions to highlight racial injustice as part of what players said is “a sign of solidarity with the Black community.”
“Over the past several months we have been trying to educate ourselves and learn more about racial injustice in our country and around the world,” Bruins players said in a statement. “This action is solely intended to be a positive sign of support for the Black community and a way for us to use our platform to help end racism.”
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones hinted Monday at a possible arrangement with the Bruins, their opponent in an exhibition game Thursday.
“We may do something with them before the game and just show a united front that we’re all here, we all care and we’re all trying to make a difference in the world,” said Jones, who is Black. “Obviously we’re trying to create a cultural change, not just in hockey but around the world.”
The NBA painted “Black Lives Matter” on courts at Walt Disney World for the basketball season’s restart and allowed players to replace the names on the back of their jerseys with references to racial injustice. Major League Baseball inverted its initials on the field to read “BLM” for Black Lives Matter last week.
The NHL has signs saying #WeSkateFor Equality inside the arenas where games are being held. Mayer, the league’s chief content officer and senior executive vice president of events and entertainment, said tributes to COVID-19 front-line workers and the Black Lives Matter movement will be part of a “powerful opening evening” Saturday.
“We’ll see how our players react naturally to what we will present opening night, but there will be some moments within the opening night ceremony that will touch on Black Lives Matter and social justice,” Mayer said.
Of the 30 Boston players currently in Toronto preparing for the start of the NHL post-season, none is black.
Thirteen of the players on the post-season were born in the U.S., a country that has had far greater challenges dealing with racial disparities and injustices that its Canadian neighbor.
The Bruins are scheduled to play the Columbus Blue Jackets in an exhibition game in Toronto Thursday night in Toronto. Because of the game’s location, inside Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena, it is expected both the US and Canadian anthems will be played, even though both clubs are US-based.
Meanwhile, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask was chided on social media because he was photographed wearing a “Boston Police” ballcap in Toronto at the time of his team’s solidarity statement.
It is worth noting that Rask’s agent, Brett Petersen, is black.
Kevin Paul Dupont contributed to this report.