Instead of addressing the media Friday afternoon about pre-game updates for Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy talked about the NHL’s decision to postpone two days of playoff games in response to other leagues protesting racial injustice.
The NHL announced the postponement Thursday, after discussions among NHL players believed the best action would be to not play their games Thursday or Friday.
“We’re in a bubble, but I think we’re all aware of what’s going on in society,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some are more active in those issue than others, obviously. But with our players yesterday, we sat down with the leadership group and had a discussion of what they intended to do. Some of that is personal. Some of that is just that they felt that a boycott was the appropriate way to go to support what the NBA did and its’ players. And from there to use their platform while they’re playing to talk about their opinions on what is going on in the world in regards to racism and social injustices. That’s what we talked about.”
While the NBA, WNBA, MLB, and MLS all held a strike instead of playing their games Wednesday, the NHL went on as scheduled. The league’s decision was met with conflict by players, media members, and fans. However, that’s not to say the players did not want to put their words into action.
And so, something was done. Less than 24 hours after the completion of the Dallas Stars versus Colorado Avalanche game Wednesday night, the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA), requested that the NHL postpone games Thursday night.
The quick turnaround is a significant step in the the direction of alliance, and Cassidy believes that has to do with the fact that teams are in a close-knit bubble and have the ability to have these conversations with other players.
“We – whether you guys are aware or not, we just followed Tampa into the media room here. That happened yesterday and Brayden Coburn was outside, Coop, Schenn and they’re discussing things with our players,” said Cassidy. “So that’s inevitable. In that regard, they weren’t sure how that would go but that was a positive yesterday. Some people thought once the heat of the battle comes in the playoffs, could it be a negative? Something happening here. But I think players are very respectful once the game is over about treating each other like pros. And yesterday was a good example outside of hockey where they got together. So yes, I do believe it came together quickly because the bubble served, in this particular situation, served everybody well.”
Bruce Cassidy Calls For ‘Growth In Game For Everybody’
While the NHL and other leagues will resume their play on Saturday, the pause in sports was an opportunity for players, coaches, team members, media, and fans to take a seat and reflect on what is going on in the world around them. On what Cassidy hopes to see as a result of this, he hopes improvements will be made in the NHL to make the environment within the sport one where everybody can play.
“I guess you can make a general statement but for us in the hockey world, you would hope that there was room for growth in the game for everybody,” said Cassidy. “Any race, any – you can include religion in that for that matter; any player that wants to play, [and] any player gets treated with respect from a coach, a trainer, a manager, whatever. You just get away from what would happen years ago about how certain players were treated. And even on the ice with the players themselves, that they show a little more respect for one another.”
“There were times – and from the fans from that matter. There was an incident I think in Chicago a few years ago,” continued Cassidy. “That’s what you want in the immediate future. Some awareness of that. And then how do we grow the game for all people interested. How do you do that? Is it grass roots programs? Is it – obviously you need funding. So, there’s different ways you can do that. Players being out there, being good role models. All of those things, to me, I’ll look at it in the hockey world how you can affect that. I think it’s a conversation that could take a long time if you’re talking about policing and other things, etc. for us in the hockey world, I think the NHL has done a good job with that. I know the Bruins have programs in place and I’m sure most teams do throughout the league. But obviously they need to keep improving those.”