The United States is still reeling from the death of George Floyd and the increased exposure of police brutality towards black people and people of color. In this edition of Blake’s Takes, I’ll highlight some very important steps the NHL and its players are taking to combat racism both internally and externally. I’ll also share my perspective on the league’s decision to move into Phase 2 of its Return to Play plan. #BlackLivesMatter
1. Subban Donates $50k to Gianna Floyd’s GoFundMe
Change The Game❤️🙏🏿 pic.twitter.com/otPpYIBkJx
— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) June 3, 2020
With everything going on right now, it’s refreshing to see that some hockey players are taking action to fight racism and promote #BlackLivesMatter. P.K. Subban of the New Jersey Devils, one of the most prominent black players in the NHL, announced that he had donated $50k to the Gianna Floyd GoFundMe. Gianna Floyd is the six-year-old daughter of George Floyd, who was brutally murdered by the Minneapolis Police a few weeks ago.
Not only did Subban donate money to Floyd’s GoFundMe, but he also called the NHL and urged them to donate, too. He was successful and the NHL matched Subban’s $50,000 donation.
A few days ago on the Puck Junk Podcast, Sal and I talked about how the NHL needs to take action and do more than make a statement. This is a step in the right direction. That money will make a difference in Gianna Floyd’s life. Hopefully, Subban’s donation will draw additional attention to #BlackLivesMatter and the oppression of black people in North America and will inspire even more people to speak out and take action.
2. Enter Phase 2
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We have movement! Thanks to the Spittin Chiclets Instagram, I saw that the NHL announced they would be moving to Phase 2 of its Return to Play Plan today, Monday, June 8th. Phase 2 allows players to return to their club’s home city and begin individual workouts. These workouts are voluntary and will take place in small groups. More importantly, this means that the league felt as though the spread of the virus was manageable and felt comfortable allowing players to travel and workout. It also means we’re one step closer to hockey coming back.
Like the last announcement, this might not mean a ton right now, but it’s a massive step in the right direction. The next step is that each team can host a training camp so players can get back in game shape. We’re another day closer to games which should be incredibly comforting to hockey fans. Unless there is some sort of setback, we can all be confident we’ll see the conclusion of the 2019-20 season.
3. Update on Playoff Format
NHL/NHLPA have put finishing touches on format agreement announced last week. Among the open issues resolved:
_ both sides have agreed that it will be best-of-7 in all four playoff rounds (best of 5 in play-in round)
– Teams will be re-seeded after each round (not bracketed)
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) June 4, 2020
We have clarity on the playoff format. When the NHL made their initial announcement explaining the 2020 playoffs, there were still some details that hadn’t been confirmed. A few of those details were the length of the first two rounds and if teams would be re-seeded or bracketed. Our king, Pierre LeBrun, has shared that news with us. The league has announced that all four rounds, excluding the qualification round, will all be a best-of-seven series. Teams will also be re-seeded.
For clarification, the normal playoff format, all series are a best-of-seven series and the playoffs use a bracket, rather than re-seeding. I’ll admit to not being sure if the league used a bracket or re-seeding after the change made in 2014.
I didn’t have a strong opinion on if the league decided on re-seeding or a bracket. I was concerned about the length of the first two rounds. I was hoping the league would decide on a best-of-seven series for all four rounds, to ensure this year’s playoffs would be as normal as possible. Many people have voiced that this year’s playoffs should have an asterisk or that the champion doesn’t deserve the same amount of credit as past champions due to the suspension. I disagree with those sentiments. That being said, implementing a best-of-seven series for all four rounds ensures that this year’s playoffs will be as normal as possible. That should take some air out of the sails of the people who want an asterisk. I’ll be the first to honor this year’s champion with the same vigor as previous champs.
4. Howard Wants to Keep PlayingJimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings has announced he wants to keep playing. The 36-year-old told the Detroit News the following on Friday (per NHL.com),
“I want to keep playing,” the 36-year-old goalie, who can become an unrestricted free agent after the season, told The Detroit News on Friday. “This year left such a bitter taste in my mouth. I want to go out there and show people I can still play in this league. I know I’m capable.”
This year, Howard went 2-23-2 in 27 starts, with a 4.20 GAA, and a .882 sv%. That’s Howard’s fewest wins in a season, worst sv% in a season that he’s played more than one game, and highest GAA in a season. It’s more clear now more than ever that he’s the Wings’ number two goaltender, backing up Jonathan Bernier.
Howard has had a great career in Detroit. He took over as the full-time starter at the start of the 2009-10 season. During his Red Wings career, he’s won 246 games, posted a 2.62 GAA, a .912 sv%, and 24 shutouts. He’s spent his entire carer with the Red Wings.
It’s upsetting to see Howard regress as much as he has. It doesn’t help that the team in front of him is terrible. I hope that the Wings sign him for one more year where he proves that last year was a fluke. Even if he’s not very good, he doesn’t’ deserve to go out like this. I want to see him finish his career in Detroit and ride off into the sunset under better circumstances.
5. The NHL Announces More ActionLike Sal and I talked about on the podcast last week, what action is the NHL going to take to combat racism? On Friday, Kim Davis, the NHL’s senior executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs, gave us an update.
Davis said one thing that resonated with me,
“What I care about are the actions that follow, and so that’s what I’m going to be paying attention to. That’s what I’m going to be focused on, and that’s what I’m going to be measuring.”
One of those actions is the creation of the Executive Inclusion Council. The council will, according to the report I linked on NHL.com, “receive recommendations from three committees representing different stakeholders — the Player Inclusion Committee, the Fan Inclusion Committee and the Youth Inclusion Committee.”
The names of the committee members will be announced soon.
At the same time, Davis announced the NHL would create another task force focused “exclusively on the development of coaches and officials.”
It seems like many of these initiatives are still in the early stages and are both things I will keep tabs on. However, it is reassuring to see the NHL take initiative and take action on combating racism in the NHL and at the grassroots level. The NHL is the preeminent hockey body in the world and has more visibility than any other hockey organization. They need to lead the way in combatting racism at the local level and up to the professional level. If they can do that effectively, it should hopefully make the ice a safe place for all black people and people of color.
It’s also reassuring that the voice of these initiatives is Davis, who as a black woman, has a much-needed perspective. ■