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Players, coaches unite in fight against racism prior to exhibition games

Bruins, Blue Jackets, Stars, Predators latest to stand together on ice during anthems

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NHL players and coaches continued to make statements against social injustice Thursday.

Before the exhibition game between the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, members of each team stood side by side and arm in arm in solidarity around the center ice face-off circle during the Canada and United States national anthems. 

"After thoughtful conversations, as a group we decided we want to do something to support the Black community, and this is the platform during the playoffs that we have coming up that we're going to express our support," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said Wednesday. "We understand there is -- still work needs to be done and we are obviously still listening and learning and everybody has to make up the approach in the right way to make the proper change. But that's how we are feeling about it, how we want to show support."

Earlier Thursday, members of the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators stood side by side and arm in arm on the blue lines.  

"I think you've seen a lot of the other teams do it," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "We had some chats with Nashville and talked to (Predators captain) Roman Josi, and we thought it would be good to mix it up, link arms, and we stand for equality. I think it's important that we keep talking about it and keep improving it."

The Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche stood side by side in Edmonton before their game Wednesday. Jordan Greenway and Matt Dumba of the Wild stood next to Nazem Kadri and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the Avalanche. Greenway placed his right hand on Kadri's shoulder, Kadri did the same to Dumba, who had his hand on Bellemare's shoulder.   

"Both teams had talked about doing something," Dumba said. "I think us standing together showing our strength in numbers in this fight against racism and standing up for those, especially in our community in Minnesota, those people who have faced and lived through tragedy this last couple of months and people who are still living in tragedy across the states, to show our strength as two teams coming together -- allies in this and that fight in eradicating racism from our sport -- it's awesome.

"Me and Naz have done a lot of work, and we've shared that with both of our teams -- everything that we've been doing. To know that we have allies like our teammates and our organizations behind us was very powerful. To have us four standing up there as four players of color in the game, I hope that showed some strength."

Tweet from @JTBrown23: Great to see this act of brotherhood ���🏽 @matt_dumba @JGreenway12 @43_Kadri @bellsy78

New York Rangers and New York Islanders players and coaches made the same gesture prior to their exhibition game at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday, and the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks also did so before their exhibition game in Edmonton later that day.

Tweet from @NHLJets:

Those gestures came a day after members of the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins stood together prior toa 3-2 overtime win by the Flyers at Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens did the same before Toronto's 4-2 victory.

"The Penguins and Flyers, two of the fiercest rivals in sports, united in solidarity this afternoon, to stand up against social injustice, racism and hate," the teams said in a statement. "The two teams stood as one, merging players from both franchises together across each club's respective blue lines prior to today's game."

Each player stood next to a player from the opposing team, including Penguins captain Sidney Crosby next to Flyers center Sean Couturier, Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist next to Flyers forward Jakub Voracek, and Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson next to Flyers captain Claude Giroux

"A lot has happened since we played our last game, and we felt, both teams, it was important to show unity given what's gone on and just want to be part of the solution moving forward," Crosby said. "So that was kind of the thought behind it."

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan stood next to Flyers coach Alain Vigneault during the anthems.

"I think all we were trying to do tonight, players and coaches, was show our support," Vigneault said. "That was one small way I thought everybody could do it and show it, and that's what we did."

Video: Avalanche, Wild stand in solidarity during anthem

Several NHL players and teams have been vocal and active in their support of social justice, the fight against racism and the Black Lives Matter movement since George Floyd, a Black man, died in the custody of Minneapolis police May 25, sparking protests across the United States.

"We talked about it before the game, doing something for equality and justice, racism, everything," Couturier said. "Just respect people, your opponent. We're a pretty big rival, but it still shows the way we have respect for each other, and I think it should be the same in life in general."

Video: Penguins, Flyers unite for social justice

Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said it's an opportunity for the players to show a united front.

"We're all here, we all care and we're all trying to make a difference in the world," Jones said Monday. "Obviously we're trying to create a cultural change, not just in hockey but around the world."

The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Stanley Cup Qualifiers -- eight best-of-5 series and two four-team round-robins -- begin Saturday.

Each of the 24 participating teams will play one exhibition game.

Tweet from @penguins: The Penguins and Flyers, two of the fiercest rivals in sports, united in solidarity this afternoon, to stand up against social injustice, racism, and hate. The teams stood as one across each club���s respective blue lines prior to today���s game.

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