If you’re going to seek counsel on an issue as complex as how racial diversity relates to professional sports, it never hurts to consult with someone you know who’s in the know.
That’s why it was a natural for the Flyers’ rep to the National Hockey League Players’ Association James van Riemsdyk to make a phone call to teammate Chris Stewart.
Stewart, who is Black, is a member of the executive committee of the new “Hockey Diversity Alliance,’’ as is recent former player on the Flyers, Wayne Simmonds.
Van Riemsdyk took part in a Thursday night Zoom call from Toronto after the National Hockey League postponed both the Flyers-Islanders and Vegas-Vancouver games to show respect for the Jacob Blake protest movement.
Also taking part in the call were reps from the other remaining Eastern Conference teams: Anders Lee of the Islanders; Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
JVR was joined on the Thursday morning call to Stewart by the Flyers’ Scott Laughton and Kevin Hayes.
“I only got a chance to play with ‘Stewie’ for this season but I’ve gotten to know him really well,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “I really respect him as a teammate and a friend.
“Him being a part of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, I just wanted to reach out to him as someone who’s been involved in some of these other conversations that are being had.’’
Going forward, it’s safe to say the NHL plans to engage in a greater awareness of what is going on with its players. There are only about 20 Black players in the NHL but a vast majority of the other players are sympathetic to their cause.
“I think we’re trying to do the right thing,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Looking for things we can do to show support, kind of be a part of this. That was kind of the reason why a few of us reached out to him, try to start some of these conversations just to see what we could do to help things in this case.’’