The Islanders and Flyers will resume their second-round series shortly, perhaps as soon as Saturday.
But captain Anders Lee said the Islanders understand there are bigger issues than playing hockey. Thursday night’s Game 3 between the teams at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto was postponed as the NHL players opted to join their brethren in other professional sports in boycotting games to protest social injustice in the wake of a Black man, Jacob Blake, being shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The NHL and NHL Players’ Association issued a joint statement that all playoff games on Thursday and Friday were being postponed. A new schedule was not announced but both the NHL’s media website and the Islanders’ website listed a game on Saturday at noon.
“We have this platform as professional athletes and hockey players to make our communities a better place,” Lee said on a Zoom media teleconference as he was joined on the podium by the Flyers’ James van Riemsdyk, the Lightning’s Kevin Shattenkirk and the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara.
“All the guys in the league are coming together on something that we think has an opportunity to be better in the outside world,” Lee said. “Any time you have an opportunity to do that, you try to do the right thing and we’re trying to do that today in support of our teammates and everyone around the league and in our communities.”
The Islanders issued a statement backing the players’ decision to not play Game 3 on Thursday.
“We are in total support of our players as they use their platform to bring further attention to a movement that is important to them, our organization and our game,” the statement said. “We will continue to work together as we promote equality and to end racial and social injustice.”
The Flyers evened the series with a 4-3 overtime win in Wednesday afternoon’s Game 2, with that game being played as the Milwaukee Bucks opted to boycott their NBA game, starting the wave of protests.
“We were clearly not as informed as we are today about what was going on in the other leagues,” Lee said. “I had an opportunity to see what the NBA had done, the MLB. We had conversations last night, woke up this morning and I was seeing these guys [from the other teams] around the bubble. As a union, we got together and started having conversations that we needed to have. And then the same as a team.
“We came to understand and to really have that opportunity to support our fellow Black players in this league,” Lee added. “They weren’t comfortable playing. We were right behind them. That inclusion, that support we have for them is extremely important.”
The Islanders and Flyers were scheduled to play Game 4 on Saturday, Game 5 on Monday and Games 6 and 7, if necessary, on Wednesday and Thursday.
It’s possible the NHL could keep the series on that schedule and then add a new date for Game 7.
But before playing again, Lee said it was important for all NHL players to consider how best they can use their platform as athletes in a positive manner.
“There’s a lot of stuff I don’t have the answer to moving forward,” Lee said. “But it’s conversations, it’s time to reflect that we need to have as a group. The answers are out there and, hopefully, we can find them.”
The Rangers, who were swept in the best-of-five qualifying series by the Hurricanes, also issued a statement in support of the players saying they “join with athletes and organizations across sports to condemn all forms of racial injustice.”
The NHL Coaches’ Association issued a similar statement declaring, “The time to listen has passed. Action must be taken now.”