In the NHL’s latest chapter of the “better late than never’’ book, the league finally made a statement about the Jacob Blake shooting by calling off Thursday night’s game.
Basketball, baseball and other sports had already reacted before pro hockey decided to move.
The NHL’s gesture unquestionably was more player-driven than generated by the folks in the high tower on Avenue of the Americas, NYC anyway.
Flyers captain Claude Giroux addressed the subject Friday. When asked about what impact the “sit-out’’ for Thursday’s scheduled Game 3 of the Flyers-Islanders playoffs might have, he didn’t pause to answer.
“We know that it (the show of solidarity) is not going to solve everything tomorrow,’’ Giroux said. “It’s a process. For me, it’s just getting conversations with everybody.
“The last six months I think I had great conversations with my teammates, with my wife. Just kind of educate yourself and know a little bit more. I think when the NBA took a stand, we all respected that. We wanted to stand with them.’’
On Thursday morning, Scott Laughton, James van Riemsdyk (the Flyers’ rep to the National Hockey League Players’ Association) and Kevin Hayes placed a call to Flyers teammate Chris Stewart, a member of the executive committee of the “Hockey Diversity Alliance.’’
The purpose of the call was to get input into how the Flyers players might be able to contribute to the cause beyond just deciding not to play Game 3.
“Just wanted to, I guess, pick his brain and see what he thought,’’ Laughton said. “With everything going on, the last 24 hours have been crazy for sure. Just wanted to see what his thoughts were.’’
While particular details of that call weren’t revealed, suffice to say Stewart recommended a unified approach.
Once the Flyers – and players around the league – were in agreement about a course of action, things progressed from there.
“You have a bunch of guys who are playing against each other that night and the next day and we’re all coming together for one goal, to stand united and to be together through this,’’ Laughton said. “I think that shows a lot about the guys here. Just about what we’re all about.’’
Giroux maintains a close relationship with Wayne Simmonds, the former Flyer who is also a member of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
Knowing guys such as Simmonds and Stewart as well as he does makes it easy for Giroux to embrace the cause.
“I played with Wayne for seven years and we were great friends,’’ Giroux said. “We’re still great friends. Just all the years we have together. Playing with ‘Stewy’ this year, getting to know him too.
“(It’s) just being able to support them and to know that we are all in this together, I think that’s very important.’’
Van Riemsdyk also has maintained a close bond with Simmonds.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to Simmer yet,’’ JVR said. “Again, yesterday (Thursday) was a bit of a whirlwind in the morning with all the meetings we were having, discussions we were having, with the Hockey Diversity Alliance, I know Simmer is a part of that.
“He’s been a part of the conversations with the league. The work that those guys have done so far to get the ball rolling on things has been great. So we want to try to support them and have their back(s) going forward.’’
Giroux gives the impression the players are as much united as they’ve been for past causes of their own, like collective bargaining agreements.
“I think yesterday was a good day just to wait,’’ he said. All the players got together and four teams in the bubble had great conversations. We all spoke with Ryan Reaves (Vancouver) and Matt Dumba (Minnesota) and being able to kind of hear what they had to say. Everybody is on the same page and supporting.
“We all stand together.’’