Evander Kane

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.

Wild’s Dumba on Hockey Diversity Alliance, getting advice from Kaepernick

Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba appeared on “Lunch Talk Live” to discuss the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance. Dumba detailed much of the HDA’s aims to Mike Tirico, while also noting how Dumba and the rest of the alliance received advice from trailblazer Colin Kaepernick.

“Eradicating racism can’t be on the shoulders of seven guys,” Dumba told Tirico.

Indeed, shortly after the Hockey Diversity Alliance released its statement, people were throwing the net out wider.

From hearing Dumba’s account of a zoom call with Kaepernick, it sounds like the seven members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance were in awe of the former(?) NFL QB. While Dumba was vague about specific advice, he noted that Kaepernick emphasized unity, and finding the right ambassadors.

So far, those seven HDA ambassadors include: co-heads Akim Aliu and Evander Kane, along with executive committee members Dumba, Trevor Daley, Joel Ward, Wayne Simmonds and Chris Stewart.

Tirico also covered protests, particularly in the Minnesota communities that serve as a second home for Dumba. Dumba said he wishes he could be there to lend his support; in the meantime, Dumba praised J.T. Brown for helping others in the community.

Dumba noted that more Hockey Diversity Alliance announcements could come soon, so that’s exciting.

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.

Aliu, Kane form Hockey Diversity Alliance ‘to eradicate racism and intolerance’

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A group of seven active and former NHL players announced the formation of the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) on Monday. Akim Aliu and Evander Kane will serve as co-heads of an executive committee that also includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

“Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey,” The Hockey Diversity Alliance wrote in their press release. “We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”

Check out the release here.

(If you want the full text of the release, scroll to the bottom of this post.)

Promising goals, and maybe even more potential in the future?

Along with mapping out a broader goal of addressing racism in hockey (and society), the Hockey Diversity Alliance also shared goals about making the sport more accessible. Considering the costs of playing hockey at most levels, this is pretty exciting. The HDIA noted that they have a “charitable fiscal sponsor” to help boost such efforts.

Speaking of broader goals, it would be delightful to see the Hockey Diversity Alliance cover many groups. And it sounds like early steps are being taken to include women:

Truly spreading the “Hockey is for Everyone” message would be tremendous. Ideally, the sport will also become more inclusive for the LGBTQ2+ community, among others.

NHL executive Kim Davis and NHLPA head Donald Fehr already ranked among those who expressed pride in NHL players speaking up about racism following George Floyd’s tragic death. Seeing Aliu, Kane, Daley, Dumba, Simmonds, Stewart, and Ward form the HDA should only further such feelings.

As promising as it is to picture how far this could go, it seems like the Hockey Diversity Alliance is already off to a promising start.

Full text of Hockey Diversity Alliance release:

Here it is, in full:

We love our sport. We believe that hockey is the greatest game in the world.

As minorities who play professional hockey, we have come together to create the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA). We have appointed Akim Aliu and Evander Kane as co-heads and our executive committee includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart, and Joel Ward.

Our mission is to eradicate racism and intolerance in hockey. We will strive to be a force of positive change not only within our game of hockey, but also within society. Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.

We will promote diversity at all levels of the game through community outreach and engagement with you and will endeavor to make the game more affordable and accessible. We will also focus on educating the hockey community about the racism issues confronting the sport, while advocating for acceptance and equality. We have partnered with a charitable fiscal sponsor and we will be launching a charitable division in the coming weeks to assist us in achieving our objectives.

In creating our alliance, we are confident we can inspire a new generation of hockey players and fans. We are hopeful that anyone who puts on skates or sits in the stands will do so without worrying about race, gender or socioeconomic background (and) will be able to express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution.

We are united in our efforts and promise to work tirelessly to bring about the change our sport and society needs.

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.

What is the Sharks’ long-term outlook?

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the San Jose Sharks.

Pending Free Agents

The Core

The San Jose Sharks had a strong core for years that helped lead to consistent playoff appearances over the last decade. But general manager Doug Wilson is looking for the next crop of players to usher in a new era of hockey in San Jose. Joe Thornton and Brent Burns are still around but the organization is relying on Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson and others to lead the franchise for the foreseeable future.

The Sharks stumbled this season through the first 70 games and currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings. San Jose will not even be rewarded with a top draft pick due to the trade with the Ottawa Senators for Karlsson in September of 2018.

Thornton entertained the idea of waiving his no-movement clause at the NHL Trade Deadline if a true contender wanted to acquire the savvy centerman. There was a lack of interest but if Thornton is interested in chasing the Stanley Cup next season, there is a strong chance he will not be back in the Bay Area.

Despite the horrific season in San Jose, there is still plenty of talent on the roster. Timo Meier led the team in points with 49, Evander Kane was closing in on a 30-goal season and Karlsson still had 34 assists in only 56 games. In addition, Couture and Hertl missed time with injuries and should provide further offensive firepower.

Long-Term Needs

The most glaring weakness for the Sharks has been their play between the pipes. Martin Jones had a sub .900 save percentage and a 3.00 goals against average. The 30-year-old goaltender still has four additional years remaining on his contract and will be a difficult asset to move via trade.

San Jose also has significant cap space tied up in several long-term contracts and has to solve problems from within. Between Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Karlsson, the Sharks have more than $26 million committed through 2024-25.

Looking at the forward group, Couture, Kane, Meier, Hertl all have lengthy contracts and Kevin Labanc will need a new deal after taking an extraordinarily team-friendly agreement last summer. Similar to every NHL team, Wilson and his staff need to find the right pieces at a bargain price to fill out the roster.

Long-Term Strengths

The Sharks have taken great pride in building a culture that allows players to thrive. Thornton was a key figure in building the foundation, but he has passed on the characteristics of a strong locker room to his teammates.

Trade acquisitions are able to seamlessly fit in both on and off the ice while young players looking to earn their stripes at the professional level feel comfortable right from the beginning.

While Thornton could switch uniforms in the upcoming offseason, it will be up to Couture, Burns and others to make sure that culture isn’t lost.

The Sharks struggled mightily with the departure of Joe Pavelski this past summer but are too skilled to have a second straight dreadful season. If their play in net can improve, and key players can remain healthy, the Sharks could bounce back next season.

MORE ON THE SHARKS
• Looking at the 2019-20 San Jose Sharks
• Sharks biggest surprises and disappointments so far


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Blackhawks remain in playoff race with 6-2 win against Sharks

The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to make one last push for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They ended a two-game skid with a 6-2 win against the San Jose Sharks Wednesday. Patrick Kane scored twice, and Alex DeBrincat dished out three assists and the Blackhawks moved to within six points of the Western Conference wild card. Rookie forward Dominik Kubalik notched his 30th of the season in addition.

Evander Kane and Timo Meier scored in the Sharks’ fourth straight loss.

Blackhawks power play connects

Chicago’s power play ranks near the bottom of the NHL in terms of efficiency. However, they snapped an 0-14 streak against the Sharks’ No. 1 penalty-killing unit and scored twice in the victory.

Kane opened the scoring for the Sharks with a power-play goal of his own, but the Blackhawks answered in the second period with back to back goals on the man advantage.

Duncan Keith scored his third of the season at 4:33 of the second period to even the score at 1-1. The Blackhawks alternate captain slung a wrist shot from the blueline that sailed past the glove of Aaron Dell. Kirby Dach provided a screen to distract the Sharks goaltender.

DeBrincat recorded the second of his three assists with a pretty cross-ice pass to Kane at 16:33 of the middle frame. Kane split the defenders and darted toward the back post before finishing the beautiful feed.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.