Joel Ward

J.T. Brown says he faced racist remarks, death threats after protesting anthem

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On Saturday night, Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown became the first – and as far as we know, only – NHL player to address the sports-wide issue of protesting the national anthem.

Brown, 27, closed and raised his fist during the anthem. After the game, he told reporters that “I know there’s going to be negative backlash. But, in my heart, I know I did what was right.”

Brown decided to address the issue in greater depth on Sunday, sharing a lengthy message on Twitter. Brown mentions that he’s encountered racist remarks and even death threats since making that gesture.

Here’s how it began:

First, I would like to thank those for their overwhelming support not only from family, friends, and fans; some who I know and who I have never met before. I also wanted to reiterate that this is not or has never been about the military or disrespecting the flag. It is about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in this country. It is something that I as well as many others feels needs to be addressed.

Brown adds that “there comes a time when you cannot remain silent, hoping and wishing for a change” and went on to describe his thought process before making that protest.

Again, the forward mentions that he has received death threats and racist remarks “for how I chose to raise awareness.”

This statement is reminiscent of the heartfelt message San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward released; Ward ultimately decided not to protest, yet he was the first black NHL player to state that he would consider doing so.

Protesting the national anthem is one of two situations where hockey and politics have collided, with the other being the Pittsburgh Penguins accepting an invitation to the White House.

For more on both matters, check out the posts below. Also, check out Raw Charge’s in-depth take on Brown’s gesture.

More on this issue

Penguins make controversial decision to accept White House invitation.

Donald Trump tweets about their visit.

Auston Matthews and others on kneeling.

Ho-Sang, Okposo also weigh in.

Don’t be surprised if Kings, Ducks, Sharks finish with similar records

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Heading into the 2017-18 season, there’s a lot of optimism surrounding the Anaheim Ducks, a solid amount still going to the San Jose Sharks, and a pile of doom and gloom for the Los Angeles Kings.

Some of this comes down to crummy luck, but here’s an observation: it’s highly likely that the three California teams will finish very close in the standings.

Let’s consider the state of each team.

To go even deeper, check out PHT’s detailed preview for the Pacific Division.

Waddling through injuries

My goodness are the Anaheim Ducks banged up right now.

The OC Register’s Eric Stephens reports that Ryan Getzlaf won’t play in the Ducks’ season-opening game against the Arizona Coyotes. With John Gibson doubtful, it all adds to a troubling situation. Resounding workhorse Ryan Kesler could be gone for quite some time. Kesler is on IR with wildly underrated defenseman Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Patrick Eaves, and Ryan Miller. Woof.

It’s a testament to what GM Bob Murray’s built that the Ducks still have a fighting chance, as young players like Rickard Rakell bring something to the table.

Still, even well-stocked teams can only withstand so many injuries. Anaheim might just pay the price for its deep playoff run in 2016-17, not to mention the emphasis on aging, physical forwards in the well-compensated duo of Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

In an NHL with injuries turned off like a video game, the Ducks would be one of the NHL’s deepest teams.

Sharks getting sleepy?

Even in losing 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the Sharks put on a pretty good show. When those top-end players are clicking, they’re still pretty special.

That said, consider how old those guys are. Joe Thornton might be the next Jaromir Jagr in aging like hockey-themed wine, but he could also slip at 38. Joe Pavelski, somehow, is 33 already. With a shaky year or two in Minnesota in mind, many might be surprised that Brent Burns is 32. Paul Martin is 36 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a high-mileage 30. Even younger cornerstones Logan Couture (28) and Martin Jones (27) aren’t necessarily spring chickens. Joel Ward is 36 and even a supporting guy like Jannik Hansen is 31. This is an old group despite allowing Patrick Marleau to leave for a three-year term.

(Yes, Marleau was great last night, but the Sharks still made the difficult-but-necessary choice there.)

Although there’s skill in players such as Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, being a regular contender has generally limited the Sharks’ ability to surround those aging veterans with a ton of talent.

A slip is coming, and the drop could be sharp. The Sharks just have to hope that it doesn’t come now.

Reports of Kings’ demise exaggerated?

Look, there’s no doubt that the Kings’ salary cap situation is … appalling.

In the long-term, GM Rob Blake has a mess on his hands that Ron Hextall might have winced at early in the Flyers rebuild. Even in 2017-18, there are some problems.

Still, it’s easy to get swept into excessive pessimism and forget that it wasn’t all bad for the Kings; it’s also possible that their luck might go up a tick.

Don’t forget that the Kings still dominated puck possession in 2016-17. Also don’t forget that, even at their best, the Kings tended to struggle during the regular season. Los Angeles ranked third in the Pacific during its two championship seasons; the Darryl Sutter Kings won two Stanley Cups and zero division titles.

Anze Kopitar‘s contract looks scary, yet a 2017-18 rebound is far from unreasonable. They can still revv up “That ’70s Line” with Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli (or at least elements of that). Perhaps system tweaks will allow Drew Doughty to be the fantasy-friendly scorer many dreamed of?

Now, again, there’s some negative stuff. Even beyond predictably depressing updates about Marian Gaborik, the Kings’ defense looks to be without Alec Martinez for some time.

***

With the Central Division looming as a threat to take as many as five of the West’s eight playoff spots (for all we know), the Pacific Division could come down to the Edmonton Oilers and two other teams.

Don’t be surprised if one or more of those positions become, well, a battle of California. And don’t count the Kings out altogether in that joust, either.

Joel Ward decides not to kneel during national anthem

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Earlier this week, San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward said that he would consider kneeling/protesting in some way during the national anthem, possibly becoming the first black NHL player to do so in the process.

Upon further reflection, Ward has decided not to do that.

The 36-year-old released an expansive statement on the matter that’s well worth a read:

Here is a key excerpt from his larger statement:

  … How can we be a part of the solution and not part of the problem – or be another distraction from what the real issues are?

Although I fully support those who before me have taken the lead in bringing awareness to these issues, I will not kneel during the national anthem like my brothers have done.

But now that I have the world’s attention, let’s meet at the kitchen table, the locker room or in the stands and continue the healing process.”

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews shared a similar opinion about “the real issues” being lost amid sometimes-heated debates, as the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus reports.

“I’m sure a lot of players are doing some great work off the field at making that situation better, and educating young kids,” Toews said. “But at the end of the day as players, we all respect the flag, and respect the country, whether it’s Canada or the United States. We respect those who fought of reverting we have here. We need to get back to the real conversation and start trying to make a difference.”

Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds was rumored to be willing to join Ward if he decided to kneel. He supported Ward’s statement on Thursday, also signaling that attention should return to the issues that prompted Colin Kaepernick to kneel.

For those wondering if the NHL would end the tradition of anthem performances before games, the owners met and agreed to maintain the practice.

As PHT covered earlier on Thursday, the NHLPA came out in support of players making “peaceful protests.”

Such protests might happen, yet it doesn’t sound like Ward will be kneeling to make such a demonstration. We’ll see if anyone decides to do so as the 2017-18 regular season begins next Wednesday.

More on this issue

Penguins make controversial decision to accept White House invitation.

Donald Trump tweets about their visit.

Auston Matthews and others on the subject.

Ho-Sang, Okposo also weigh in.

NHLPA will support peaceful protests from players

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Last weekend, NFL players and teams decided to take part in peaceful protests during the playing of the American national anthem before their respective games.

Some players decided not to come out for the anthem, while others decided to take a knee or sit while it was playing.

In the last few days, Sharks forward Joel Ward and Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds have said that they’d consider a similar type of peaceful protest, while Predators defenseman P.K. Subban made it clear that he isn’t interested in doing that.

Regardless of which side of the fence players sit on, the NHLPA made it clear that they support any type of peaceful protest coming from their players.

The head of the players association, Donald Fehr, sent a memo to all players on Wednesday night. Here’s a portion of that memo via John Hoven:

“As you know, we now see a marked increase in the number of professional athletes kneeling, sitting, locking arms or otherwise taking a different approach to acknowledging the playing of the U.S. national anthem. It certainly appears this will continue in the near future, as will the public conversations surrounding the issue.

“We believe each player may choose to speak out or engage in peaceful protest on matter that are important to him. A player is entitled to his own views on political and social issues, and the right of each player to express such views deserves deserves respect. Should a player decide to make such a peaceful protest, he would of course have the full support of the NHLPA in regard to his right to do so.” 

In related news:

Related:

P.K. Subban won’t protest during national anthem

Sharks’ Joel Ward wouldn’t say no to kneeling during anthem

P.K. Subban, Predators won’t protest during national anthem

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Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski reports that, while at a Nashville-area comedy club on Tuesday, P.K. Subban said that he would “never” protest the national anthem. Two patrons described Subban’s comments to Wyshynski.

This squares away with the Nashville Predators’ stance as a whole, as they confirmed to The Tennessean’s Adam Vignan.

Wyshynski’s article is worth your time if you want to explore this issue, as he discusses the criticism Sidney Crosby received alongside the Pittsburgh Penguins regarding their upcoming White House visit, and how that might relate to Subban.

It also goes into how Subban, despite his prominent place as an All-Star black NHL player, told ESPN that he doesn’t “want to be defined as a black hockey player.”

Subban seems to lean more toward Buffalo Sabres forward Kyle Okposo, who said that he supports a person’s right to protest but doesn’t plan on kneeling himself. So far, San Jose Sharks winger Joel Ward continues to stand out as someone who is at least considering the decision not to stand during the anthem.

Auston Matthews, Blake Wheeler, and other players also weighed in on the issue. Their takes differed, but were generally very diplomatic.

With the 2017-18 season primed to begin in one week, there will be plenty of speculation regarding who might or might not kneel during anthems, and one would expect other interesting reactions.

In the case of Subban and the Predators, it looks like they’ll choose to stand.

Update: Wayne Simmonds may kneel along with Ward:

More on this issue

Penguins make controversial decision to accept White House invitation.

Donald Trump tweets about their visit.

Auston Matthews and others on the subject.

Ho-Sang, Okposo also weigh in.