Bass Reeves

Ryan Reaves drops feud with Evander Kane to focus on ‘much bigger cause’

As one of the most fearsome fighters in the NHL, Ryan Reaves is no stranger to conflict. Yet, in recent times, he’s putting aside one conflict (his feud with Evander Kane) while dealing with a more complicated “internal” conflict (supporting protests following George Floyd’s death, while grappling with his family’s background in law enforcement).

Reaves’ background really is pretty mind-blowing, and practically demands his nickname become “The Lone Reaver.”

Let’s unpack the backgrounding of the Reaves – Kane beef, but then get into that “internal conflict.”

Reaves puts aside conflict with Kane

Reaves told Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he contacted Kane following Kane co-heading the Hockey Diversity Alliance. If their feud didn’t already seem petty, it certainly looks that way in comparison to what is going on in the U.S. and around the world.

“I spoke to Evander and told him I want to jump in on this powerful message,” Reaves said. “We have to put aside our differences on the ice and come together for a much bigger cause.”

To review, the Kane – Reaves beef goes back. In fact, it goes back longer than I personally remembered.

Back in February 2017, then-Sabres forward Kane might have snuck an elbow on then-Blues enforcer Reaves.

Things really ratcheted up as the two took part in a brewing rivalry between the Sharks and the Golden Knights. The two traded trash talk and fought during that memorable 2019 Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Despite quite a bout, Reaves told reporters that he didn’t really gain respect for Kane. (Kane, meanwhile, insulted Reaves’ perceived lack of hockey skills.)

While a fight didn’t do the trick — and, sometimes a bout really does build rapport (just ask Michael Jordan and … Steve Kerr?) — Reaves is paying Kane some respect now.

And, yet, Reaves’ conflict brews in a different way.

The conflict for Reaves includes an incredible family legacy

Graney’s column on Reaves is definitely worth a read, though some will understandably cringe at seeing “both sides” in the headline. But it turns out that Reaves seeing both sides is valid, and also a route to understand how extraordinary Reaves’ story really is.

To start, Ryan Reaves’ father Willard was a sergeant in Winnipeg following a CFL and brief NFL career. Willard provided some fascinating insight on the differing forces pulling at Ryan Reaves.

“(Law enforcement) in our family dates a long, long ways back,” Willard Reaves said to Graney. “We have several who chose this as (a profession). Because of this, Ryan can see all of this from both sides. He’s mixed race (his mother Brenda is Caucasian). He can analyze and internalize from either point. He will come to his conclusions. He will deal with the facts and what he sees and hears.

“And there is internal conflict.”

As it turns out, Willard wasn’t kidding about the family’s roots going a long ways back in law enforcement. Ryan Reaves is apparently the great-great-grandson of Bass Reeves, aka the possible inspiration for “The Lone Ranger.”

Reaves’ great-great grandfather: Bass Reeves, possible “Lone Ranger” inspiration

Ryan Reeves great-great grandson of Bass Reeves Lone Ranger
via Wikimedia Commons/public domain

Whether Bass Reeves was the inspiration for “The Lone Ranger” or not, he was a figure of such stature to earn his own statue. This AP article by John Lovett touches on the high points of a life that was against-all-odds:

Born into slavery in Crawford County; escaped servitude during the Civil War; possibly fought for the Union with the Keetoowah Cherokees; survived dozens of gunfights riding for Judge Isaac C. Parker as one of the first black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi; acquitted of murder for the death of his cook; arrested his son, Benjamin, for shooting his wife, Castella, in a jealous rage. These are just a few of the incredible stories of a man who hunted down men nobody else could capture.

A life like this lends itself to Paul Bunyan-style tall tales. Also via Lovett:

Reeves was also known to love racing his sorrell horse, and would go to extremes to serve writs. Once, he walked 28 miles dressed as a beggar and fooled two men and their mother into letting him stay the night. The men with a $5,000 bounty on their heads woke up in handcuffs.

All things considered, it’s understandable that Reaves told Graney “I do kind of toe both lines” between understanding the perspectives of protesters and police. Considering that Reaves wants to align with (former?) foe Kane, it sounds like he’s ultimately invested in doing the right thing.

In other Reaves news …

The Golden Knights signed Reaves to a two-year contract extension. It’s worth $1.75M per year.

More current and former NHL players speak up about racism:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.