Regina’s Matt Dumba becomes first NHL player to take a knee during anthem


EDMONTON – Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba became the first NHL player to kneel for a national anthem when the league resumes on Saturday.The Regina native gave a social and racial justice speech ahead of Edmonton’s opening game of the NHL resumption – the second overall – before kneeling down to The star spangled banner.

The Oilers and Blackhawks players stood around the center circle of the ice for both anthems before the Edmonton-Chicago game.

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Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse and Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban each put a hand on Dumba’s shoulder as he knelt for a recording of the American anthem. All three players are black.

Dumba’s speech and display caught the attention of Toronto players in the NHL Eastern Conference bubble. Toronto Maple Leafs alternate captain Morgan Rielly said the NHL’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement is “an ongoing process,” but Dumba’s actions have impressed him.

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“I think what he did was incredibly powerful and I think he should be very proud,” Rielly said. “As players in this league, we just want to support him and support the movement and be a part of it.

“I think what he did today was exceptional. I think it’s important that we realize how brave he was and make sure we support him and try to solve this problem.

Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild takes a knee during the national anthem flanked by Darnell Nurse, right of the Edmonton Oilers, and Malcolm Subban of the Chicago Blackhawks ahead of an NHL playoff game in Edmonton on Saturday, August 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jason Franson.


Grammy Award-winning singer Michael Buble O Canada on video recorded at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Dumba represented this hymn, played after The star-spangled banner.

Dumba wore a “Hockey Diversity Alliance” shirt for the ceremony, which also paid tribute to frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Dumba and a handful of other black hockey players formed the organization in June following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minnesota.

“Racism is everywhere and we have to fight against it,” Dumba said. “We will fight injustice and fight for what is right. I hope this inspires a new generation of hockey players and hockey fans because black lives matter, Breonna Taylor life matters. Hockey is a great game, but it could be a lot better, and that starts with all of us.

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JT Brown, who raised his right fist in the anthem ahead of a 2017 game with the Tampa Bay Lightning, said on Twitter that he applauded Dumba’s “good start”.

“Going forward, teammates shouldn’t let their teammates fight alone,” Brown tweeted. “We always show up for each other on the ice, it shouldn’t be any different.”

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Earlier this week, Colorado Avalanches center Nazem Kadri said standing alongside Minnesota players before an exhibition game was a good sign of solidarity, but he called for more than just gestures.

“We’re trying to make the game more diverse, and the diversity in the game doesn’t happen with racism still going on, so that’s an important thing for us to deal with,” Kadri said. “As players we have solved this problem. From a league perspective, I think we might like to see a little more recognition and ask them to face the situation and know that they are supporting their players.

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A similar ceremony was scheduled for Saturday night’s game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins in Toronto. No player appeared to kneel during the anthems before the first two games in Toronto.

Social justice has been a theme of sports reboots.

Almost every NBA player has knelt for the American anthem since the league resumed play Thursday in Orlando, Florida.

Major League Baseball also had players on their knees in their opening games last week, although it wasn’t such a high percentage.

–With files from The Associated Press

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© 2020 The Canadian Press


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