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NHL, players weigh in on racial divide, protests

The NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn.
The NHL logo is seen on a goal at a Nashville Predators practice rink in Nashville, Tenn.

The National Hockey League, divided on many issues of late such as how best to emerge from its three-month pandemic pause, is finding a common social media voice regarding the death of George Floyd and the related protests.

With its teams and individuals weighing in with calls for reflection, change and calm in the streets, ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reported 21 of 32 teams, including Seattle, had released statements or boosted tweets from players as of 3 p.m. Monday.

That is highly unprecedented for a non-hockey issue. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Postmedia that all such action originated with the teams, with no encouragement from the league office.

In its own release late Sunday, the league said it “stands with all those who are working to achieve a racially just society … in our own sport we will continue to do better and work diligently towards cultural change throughout hockey and endeavour to be mindful of our own shortcomings in this process.”

Players from all backgrounds have posted, including Evander Kane, Jonathan Toews, Auston Matthews and Anthony Duclair.

In his longer Instagram entry, Hawks Canadian-born captain Toews said:

“A lot of people may claim these riots and acts of destruction are a terrible response. I’ll be the first to admit that as a white male that was also my first reaction. But who am I to tell someone that their pain is not real? Especially when it is at a boiling point and impossible to hold in anymore.

“It’s obviously coming from a place of truth. This reaction isn’t coming out of thin air. I’m not condoning or approving the looting, but are we really going to sit here and say that peaceful protesting is the only answer?

“My message isn’t for black people and what they should do going forward. My message is to white people to open our eyes and our hearts. That’s the only choice we have, otherwise this will continue.”


It’s impressive enough that Steve Wochy broke in playing on the 1940s Red Wings with Howe.

But then that’s Syd Howe, who pre-dates Gordie in Motown. Wochy is the oldest living NHLer at 97, after the death of 98-year-old Jim Conacher earlier this year.

Born Steve Wojciechowski in old Fort William (later Thunder Bay) on Christmas Day 1922, Wochy told the Sault Ste. Marie Star he still lives by himself in the home he built in the Soo in 1959, cooks his own meals, does his own shopping and still drives, though Covid-related concerns restrict much of his activities.

Near the end of the Second World War, the right winger joined Detroit and had 19 goals in 49 games in the 1944-45 season, losing a seven-game Stanley Cup final to the Leafs. Not yet back from army service for Toronto was Howie Meeker, who at 96 is the league’s second-oldest player.

Wochy said his one big season was due in part to centre Don Grosso, also from the Soo. At Christmas, Wings’ manager Jack Adams gave Wochy a $25 scoring bonus.

“He said it was a gift from big boss (James) Norris. He said, ‘Don’t tell anybody.’ I laugh about it every now and then.”

Wochy played just five more NHL games before finishing his career in the AHL, a stint of minor hockey coaching and a job with Algoma Steel.


The longer the delay goes on, the less you’d think 38-year-old Henrik Lundqvist having a chance to retain top billing in New York’s crease.

But he told Sweden’s Gothenburg Post he believes he can play “another few years” and wants to keep battling younger contenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev when the Rangers re-group, post-pandemic.

“I’m not blind. (The Rangers) are thinking ahead,” Lundqvist said. “There are many pieces that go into building a team right now, but also for the future. I have to fight if I want to go back and have that place in the net.”

In theory, the three goalies will be on equal footing when camp resumes at some point in the coming weeks for a projected best-of-five series against Carolina.


The KHL has set Sept. 2 as its return to play date. That’s a big if, as to whether quarantine conditions will have eased enough in Russia … Lou Lamoriello says construction on the Islanders new arena in Belmont Park, N.Y., has resumed after a two-month halt due to COVID-19. “The most comfortable feeling is that we were ahead of schedule when this all took place,” the team’s general manager said. “I do not believe there will be any hiccups as far as the delay of when it’s proposed to be open (October 2021)” … After letting long-time assistant GM Michael Futa go, the Kings have announced farm team coach Mike Stothers won’t be returning … Defenceman Frank Corrado, almost as well known for being on the brink of NHL full-time work the past seven years as the 76 games he has played for Vancouver, Toronto and Pittsburgh, has signed with MoDo in Sweden … For home games in coming seasons, Arizona will wear its original ‘kachina’ jerseys from the ‘90s with the Native American influenced Coyote design.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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