One of the most talked-about topics in the sports world over the past year has undoubtedly been whether or not professional athletes should be able to kneel, or carry out some form of demonstration, during the playing of the National Anthem prior to the start of games. Many have wondered if these protests will carry over to other professional sports; let's see what this means for the NHL.
Secondly, the majority of players in the NHL come from countries outside of the United States. With so many foreign players, it remains to be seen if players will show the same level of support for a cause that they may or may not have strong opinions about.
However, one of the NHL's most widely known black players has already begun to voice his opinion on the issue. San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward when questioned in an interview with The Mercury News if he would protest during the National Anthem replied, "It’s definitely something I wouldn’t cross out." Ward wears No. 42 on the ice as a tribute to Jackie Robinson.
When asked about his experience with racism he stated, "“I’ve dealt with it a lot, I’ve had a few things that have happened to me that you could say are not the norm. I’ve been singled out at different events. I’ve been pulled over. I’ve dealt with racism right to my face. Ward has dealt with racist comments because of his on-ice play, most notoriously after his Game 7 overtime goal against the Boston Bruins in 2012, where he was subject to racist threats over social media.
The controversy takes on a different form in the NHL for a couple of reasons.
Other notable black players such as Wayne Simmonds, P.K. Subban and Devante Smith-Pelly have been less vocal on the issue.
Subban has addressed issues of racism in the league before. In 2014 after a game against the Boston Bruins, Subban, similar to Ward, was subject to various racially-charged tweets. In a statement to NESN.com days later, Subban reassured fans that he did not fault the Bruins organization or its fan base for the incident, "It’s completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization or the fan base. They have passionate fans here, great fan base and since I’ve been in the league it’s been awesome. I’ve come to Boston many times, my family has come here, and it’s been great."
Subban was quick to bring the conversation back to hockey, "“It’s unfortunate when things take away from the great hockey that was played two days ago,” he continued. “It was a fantastic game, great for the league, great for hockey, and that’s what we are going to talk about. So I’m happy now that we can just move on. You know what the funny thing is, is that we get stronger as a league, you see how people come together and it’s great.”
It is unclear if Subban will show any type of demonstration come the start of the regular season.